Google names winners of annual Google Science Fair

Students chosen for the top prizes led experiments ranging from the study of soil to solve the global food crisis to the use of wearables to treat Alzheimer's patients.

Hayley, Mihir, Kenneth, Ciara, Sophie and Émer

After whittling down a pool of contestants that numbered in the thousands, Google said it has chosen the winners of its annual Google Science Fair.

Google hosts the science and innovation competition for students between the ages of 13-18, and in recent years upped the ante for winners with cash prices and school rewards.

This year's top finishers include Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy from the 15-16 age category. The trio studied a naturally occurring bacteria in soil called Diazotroph and discovered that the bacteria could be used to speed up the germination process of certain crops — a potential breakthrough in the mounting food crisis across the globe.

As the Grand Prize winners, the girls receive a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands provided by National Geographic, a $50,000 scholarship from Google, a personalized LEGO prize provided by LEGO Education and the chance to participate in astronaut training at the Virgin Galactic Spaceport in the Mojave desert. Not too shabby.

Additional winners include:

Mihir Garimella, 13-14 age category – The Pennsylvania student won for his project FlyBot: Mimicking Fruit Fly Response Patterns for Threat Evasion.

Hayley Todesco, 17-18 age category – This Canadian student won for her project Waste to Water: Biodegrading Naphthenic Acids using Novel Sand Bioreactors.

Kenneth Shinozuka, the Scientific American Science in Action award – This New York student won for his wearables sensors project inspired by his grandfather’s battle with Alzheimer's.

Arsh Dilbagi, Voters Choice award – This Indian student won over voters with his project Talk, which studied ways to enable people with speech difficulties to communicate by exhaling.

Image via Google.