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Google Starts Science Fair, Pitching Products to Students @ NYTimes.com

Google is synonymous with “search engine,” and now, for students, it wants to be synonymous with “science.” The company is getting into the science fair business with its first Google Science Fair, a global competition for teenagers that spans sciences as diverse as computer engineering, space exploration and medical technology. The event does not have the name recognition and deep roots of the science fairs from companies like Intel or Siemens, but for most children, Google is the most familiar company of the three. With the science fair, Google aims to play an even bigger role in their lives by encouraging young scientists to experiment — and to use Google products while they’re at it.

What do you think makers? If Microsoft was doing this and was promoting MS products would it be a problem?

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. I thought that was the point all along? Was anyone naive enough to think Google was doing this just for educational purposes? I don’t see anything wrong with it.

  2. jrspruitt says:

    I think its great when any company tries and improves the education of people. I also get advertising makes the world go around, when the product isn’t something that can be directly sold and paid for. Where the line is between just being an event to promote products and something of a more philanthropist nature is probably pretty hard to explain in concrete terms. Obviously if the company provides any resources it will probably be theirs, if MS was putting on a programming fair I wouldn’t expect them to provide free access to a competitors product, when they can give theirs out at far less cost to them. But if they required everything be their products to participate/win, then things get suspicious. I think the best way to keep these from becoming just product fairs would be teach kids about advertising, and how it effects their choices. All the product placement in the world won’t make a difference if the kids understand what it has a tendency to do. Go there, participate, learn what you can, expand your horizons, but remember these companies are not the only game in town. With that being said, it is nice they would put up the funds to do something like this at all. With education funding being trimmed back, the extras like this, will probably require private sector participation to remain a part of kid’s education. Which who knows, exposing them to this sort of wining and dining, may prepare them for the real world, where this sort of stuff happens all the time. Only time will tell I guess, and on a case by case basis, more than likely, its has more to do with the particular person planning the event, than an entire company. Hopefully the message will get through, these events are appreciated and can be a win/win for the company and the participants, but its not going to happen when they go over board with trying to pound their brand identity into kids.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If it gets young people to act on their curiosity and share their process of learning with the world, then it works fine for me.

    Lots of students and the adults around them think that great ideas need to be sheltered so nobody steals it. Putting their ideas out there through programs like this helps build a more open knowledge base, and puts teens at the center of positive conversations about how the world works and how it can become better.

    Go for it!

  4. Steve Hoefer says:

    I don’t really have a problem with this since I know a ton of professionals who work with Google products as part of their professional work. And Microsoft products for that matter. Effectively and creativity using aggregated data services is a huge part of many of the startups I’m familiar with and is a valuable skill in science, mathematics, and entrepreneurship.

    And is there a non-branded alternative? Maybe using government and/or nonprofit data feeds and services, but organizers would still need standardized submission guidelines, and that would include something like Word docs or Adobe PDFs. As far as I can tell there’s no way to make an event like this purely agnostic.

  5. migpics says:

    There’s a bigger question here about marketing to children. If google pushes there products onto a younger generation, then I would venture to say that that younger generation would develop brand awareness of google at a young age and most likely subconsciously have a better impression of google and then may elect to go with their products at an older age (assuming a positive experience).
    This happens all the time with Disney (and as the article mentioned Apple) as children develop an identity around a particular experience or product and that influences their decision making in the future.
    If google were to present this in such a way as to effectively communicate to kids that google is not the only way to do it, then I feel better about google talking to my kids.
    I wonder how much innovation is created when you give children already made tools rather than letting them develop their own tools to help their processes along?
    Still, the kid that always won the science fairs when I was a kid was the one who had the working volcano. I wonder how many volcanos will be presented at this fair? :)

  6. Mon says:

    If it inspires and unites young brilliant minds across the globe to push r+d in all fields of science from tech, bio to medical and even the arts, then GO FOR IT. Google may provide tools, and yes of course it has high financial stakes and interests, but they are providing a convenient, well designed and tried “bus of knowledge” for students to travel on. Who knows what might transpire from this journey. It is a tool only, with creative wise minds on the loose to discover new worlds, brand loyalty fears is the least of our fears

  7. MikeR says:

    Google already has your GPS location, your email, your address books, calendars, photos of your home and street, and soon…. face recognition!

    Anyone who is the least bit concerned with information security should run the other way when they hear the words “Google” or “Cloud”, or anything like that.

  8. David Harvey says:

    Our hackerspace has been having a very lively discussion on our email lists over the last few days about when it is and isn’t appropriate to have corporate sponsorship. Lots of different opinions, and no easy answers.

  9. Alan says:

    Has any science fair project, anywhere, anytime in the past five years been done without using any Google products?

  10. JAmes says:

    Who’s the babe in the pic?