The Google Science Fair is a global online science and technology competition open to individuals and teams from ages 13 to 18. This year, three girls, Marion, Joy and Sonia entered the competition from Singapore. All three girls are members of the SAYES club and have worked in NJRC, Science Buskers and SSEF at Science Centre Singapore. I got the opportunity to interview them exclusively and here, they tell us a bit more about their journey together during the Google Science Fair competition.
Sanjali: How did you come together as a team?
Marion, Joy and Sonia: The three of us are just classmates who love science and wanted to delve into a bit of research. We decided to form a team and join a research programme organised by MOE (SMP) and we found a project that interested all of us! It was about flexible and lightweight ultracapacitors, and that is how our story began.
S: What were the challenges?
M, J and S: There were moments where it was really hard to persevere when faced with demoralising results and failed ideas. We had to do a lot of trial and error to move beyond a working idea to an optimised device. Coming up with improvements was a hurdle that we nevertheless managed to overcome.
S: What was your most memorable moment during this journey?
M, J and S: In our project, we work with graphene paint. Every time we get a new can of paint, we perform a volatility test to characterise our paint. However, this one time, the paint was not fully dried when we took it out and could be rolled into a small black ball of play dough consistency. At that point in time, our mentor and us were joking about how we could make sculptures out of graphene paint – and so we did! We made a black snowman out of the remaining paint we had left, and left this snowman on the table top for the next few weeks as a reminder of the fun we had during our research project.
S: All three of you are interested in different scientific fields. How did you marry all three of your interests – biomedical science, chemistry, and chemical engineering – in your project?
M, J and S: We certainly did not start with that intention, however, as things progressed, we managed to incorporate aspects of each scientific field in our project. The fabrication and the materials itself was where engineering was involved. Analysing and characterising the different chemicals in the paint and the electrolyte required organic chemistry. As we were thinking of the potential implications, we soon realised that this device could be also used as medical bio-implants, since our device is capable of storing energy and takes up very little space.
S: What were your key learning points during this journey?
M, J and S: We learnt how scientific research – especially in hot fields like materials science – is highly interdisciplinary; not only do we need to learn at school, but research is also a great testing ground connect the dots between different concepts. We also learnt the importance of adhering to a rigorous scientific method to ensure we obtain reliable results. This we achieved by referencing all our information in our report as well as doing a thorough literature review.
S: How would you like to see this project grow beyond Google Science Fair?
M, J and S: We hope to be able to continue developing our prototype, hopefully one that is viable for further development. Commercialisation of our product as car paint could make hybrid electric vehicles more economically viable. It will also be great to see our device being incorporated into upcoming technology such as bio-implants, to revolutionise the medical industry and to improve the quality of lives of patients with heart problems.
S: What advice do you have to other budding scientists out there?
M, J and S: There are many opportunities out there in school just waiting for you to grab – if you have the interest, just join any programme available! Ranging from a short project in your school, to the Science Mentorship Programme by MOE, and even joining a global competition! All it takes is just a spark of inspiration, and the curiosity and courage to test it out to open a whole new world. So don’t be afraid to try your ideas out – no matter how ridiculous they may seem!
So there you have it, straight from the finalists of the Google Science Fair competition. Their perseverance in the face of so many unknown factors has inspired me, did it inspire you too?
Click here if you want to learn more about their project.
To find out about other interesting research projects at CRADLE in Science Centre Singapore, click here.