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Indian student inspires new award at Google Science Fair

Harine Ravichandran was among the 15 finalists last year

Inspired by an Indian student, Harine Ravichandran's project that seeks to eliminate voltage fluctuations, a new prize has been introduced in this year's ‘Google Science Fair', the largest online science competition in the world for students between 13-18 years.

Harine was among the 15 finalists and the only one from India at the inaugural edition of the event last year, launched by the Google in partnership with CERN, The LEGO Group, National Geographic and Scientific American. She was quizzed by eminent judges at Google headquarters at Mountain View, California on her project, which envisaged developing multi-level inverters to solve voltage sags, particularly in rural areas.

The 15 finalists were five each from three age categories- 13-14 years, 15-16 years and 17-18 years. Seventeen-year-old Shree Bose (17-18 years) from Fort Worth, Texas was the grand prize winner, while Naomi Shah ( 15-16 years) and Lauren Hodge were the other two top finalist winners in 2011.

Announcing a new category for this year's competition—the Scientific American Science in Action award—Google said “ We were so inspired by 2011 finalist Harine Ravichandran's project, which attempted to solve energy surges in rural villages, that we decided to recognise an outstanding project that addresses a social, environmental or health need to make a difference in the lives of a group or community, as Harine's project did for her grandparents village in India. The winner will also be flown to Mountain View for the finalist event in July”. The award winner will get $ 50,000 and a year-long mentorship to make the project goal a reality.

The Google Science Fair, which opened on January 12, will accept submissions until April 1. Reacting to institution of the new award, Harine (16), told The Hindu that initially she wondered why she did not get $50,000 prize. “But later I felt so happy that I could inspire Google to initiate a new award. This award will make people come up with new idea to solve problems of a community”.

Harine, who is appearing for Intermediate second year examinations in March, said her dream was to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

This year the event has been broad based and submissions will be accepted in 13 languages-- Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish and Russian.

As many as 90 regional finalists will be recognised (30 each from the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe/ Middle East/ Africa).

The regional finalists will be announced in May and 15 among them will be top finalists, who will be flown to Google headquarters for final event to be held on July 23, 2012 for selecting top winners in each age category.

The grand prize winner would get $ 50,000 and a trip to Galapagos Islands, while the other two top winners would earn $ 25,000 each.

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