6 Impressive Science Fair Projects with Great Practical Applications

Science fair projects are generally perceived as the amateurish attempts of students to demonstrate their understanding of and curiosities in science and technology. However, there are science fair projects that simply stand out because of their advanced ideas and viable or practical applications. These projects ought to have been thought of before by adults.

  1. Nuclear Fusion Reactor

Fifteen-year-old Thiago Olsen is no ordinary science and technology enthusiast. He is one of only around 20 amateur nuclear scientists from different parts of the world who have built a nuclear fusion device. Even more impressive is the fact that he had no formal nuclear engineering training, which means that he started the nuclear fusion reactor project from scratch. He spent a year for the research phase of the project and another year to do the actual building. Olsen’s nuclear fusion reactor device, however, is not yet the type that can be considered ready for actual use. It barely produces sufficient power to warm a drink. Nevertheless, the device was examined by radiation experts and was deemed safe as it does not yield dangerous radiation levels. Moreover, Olsen’s nuclear fusion reactor makes it clear that a technology for producing clean and renewable energy source isn’t really that far out of reach.

By usa gov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By usa gov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Chemical Detecting Lego Robot

During the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, high schooler Anna Kornfeld Simpson presented a robot that has the potential of becoming a tool against chemical-based terror attacks. Capable of moving around autonomously, the robots’ body is made of Lego bricks and parts. The sensors used consist of relatively simple electrical parts including an LED, photodiode, op-amp, resistors, and a porous silicon chip that changes color in reaction to the presence of a volatile organic compound in the environment. It also has a small fan that sucks in saturated vapor for testing. The robot won the “Project of the Year” award at the 2009 California State Science Fair.

  1. Mind-Controlled Artificial Limbs

Another fifteen-year-old, Anand Srinivasan, has proven that in the field of science and technology you can never be too young to be able to create something impressive. This young fellow has made it a hobby joining in various science fairs since he was a child. In 2012, he was able to produce something that would land him on the pages of major newspapers, online news sites, and blogs like this. After taking a number of online university courses to gain the necessary knowledge and skills for the project, Srinivasan created a robotic arm that responds to electrical impulses from the brain. He was not able to produce a perfectly working prosthetic limb but at the least, his robotic science fair project earned him a personal meeting with President Obama.

By Official Navy Page from United States of America Sarah Fortney/U.S. Navy (The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL).) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(Not the Photo of Srinivasan’s Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Limb) By Official Navy Page from United States of America Sarah Fortney/U.S. Navy (The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL).) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Image-Based Search Engine

Google, arguably the best source for search engine technology, made image-based search available to users only in the middle part of 2011. However, not many know that an earlier image-based search technology was actually introduced back in 2010 by a student, through a science fair project. David Liu of Saratoga California placed second in the Intel Science Talent Search (STS) in 2010 for his impressive AI image categorization project, which was called Semantic Image Retrieval and Interactive Exploration of Large Image Collections and described in the media as a way for smarter image search. The idea for pursuing this project started when he was trying to help organize the photo collections of his family.

  1. Nuclear Weapon Detector

When he was still 14, Texarkana local Taylor Wilson created his own nuclear fusion reactor. By the age 17, he invented a device capable of scanning cargo to reveal materials and even fingerprints that may have been exposed to radioactive substances. Yes, the now 20-year-old University of Nevada, Reno student developed a nuclear weapons detector when he was a teenager. This invention was presented at the 2010 Intel International Science Fair in San Jose, California where it won several awards.

  1. Microbes that Consume Plastic

In 2009, Waterloo Collegiate Institute student Daniel Burd thought of a method that could become one of the most efficient solutions to the plastic waste problem of the world. Burd presented this at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa, Ontario. Burd knew that plastics eventually perish and some microorganisms are playing a role in the process. That’s why he explored the idea of breeding microbes that eat plastic. He created a way to hasten microbial decomposition. The result of his work led to a setup that caused 43% plastic degradation in only 6 weeks, a significant increase over unaided plastic decomposition.

By Venkat2336 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Venkat2336 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

These science fair projects prove that age is no hindrance to achieving impressive sci-tech creations. These works of young people prove that despite the many unflattering public misconceptions on science and technology, there are still youths who could serve as the hope or foster the future of science and technology for the next generation.