Last week in our Zurich office, we held a celebratory event for the 20 winners of the second annual European Google Trailblazer Awards, intended to recognize students that exhibit great potential in science and engineering. The eight girls and 12 boys aged 16-19 were selected for their work in national science, informatics and engineering competitions that took place in Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Switzerland and the U.K. over the past year. Partnering with each of these competitions, Google engineers awarded “Trailblazer” status to the participants who demonstrated an outstanding use of computing technology in their projects. The aim of the distinction is to reward and encourage these students’ achievements, bring talented students to experience life at Google and show them what a career in computer science can look like, with a special emphasis on how computer science touches every discipline.
Every Trailblazer winner this year was truly worthy of the title. Ciara, Ruth and Kate, three of the winners of the the BT Young Scientist competition in Ireland, taught themselves to code in order to develop a mobile app for teens to measure their carbon footprints, looking at their use of typical teenage appliances like MP3 players, hair straighteners and computer games. Joszef, one of the winners of the Scientific and Innovation Contest for Youth in Hungary, developed a portable heart monitor combined with GPS that would alert medical services instantly if you were having a heart attack, and include your location so they could respond quickly. Tom and Yannick, winners of the Junior Web Awards in Switzerland, learned HTML and CSS in order to build an interactive health website—and made it available in French, German and English. These are just a few examples.
While at Google Zurich, the Trailblazers covered a wide swath of material, learning about data centers, security and testing, hearing from the Street View team on managing operations in multiple countries and from recruiters on how to write a strong resume. Google engineers chatted about careers in computer science and then tasked the group to solve problems like a software engineer: imitating how a software program might work, the participants lined up in groups of six and had to create an algorithm to reorder themselves without speaking to each other during the re-arranging. For their most in-depth challenge, the students developed and pitched their own award-winning product with guidance from product managers. In just 20 minutes, each student had to come up with product ideas and a pitch—delivered to the product managers—that would convince even Larry Page that their tech product would be the next big thing.
The students left Zurich buzzing about the pathways a career in tech can lead them down, and we can’t wait to see how these young entrepreneurs develop over the next few years.
If you’d like a shot at becoming a Google Trailblazer in 2012, enter one of our partner competitions in Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Switzerland or the U.K. (you need to be at high school in one of these countries to be eligible for entry). More countries and partner competitions will be added each year, so keep an eye on google.com/edu for further details.
If you’re the organizer of an pre-existing national science and engineering competition in Europe, the Middle East or Africa (EMEA) and would like your competition to be considered for a Trailblazer prize from Google, please complete this form.