Three Teen Girls Win Google Science Fair With Global Hunger Crisis Solution


The annual Google Science Fair, recently held in Mountain View, California, saw three teen girls from Ireland take home the top prize. The goal of the event is to encourage young men and women around the world experiment with ambitious scientific ideas, and effectively increase interest in STEM industries.

Ciara Judge (16), Emer Hickey (16) and Sophie Healy-Thow (17) from Kinsale, Ireland won the prize for their age category with their brilliant plan to solve the global hunger crisis.

Basically they figured out a way to use a naturally occurring strain of bacteria that could be injected into barley and oats and increase crop yield by 74%.

It all started when Emer Hickey and her mother, Francis, began gardening. They pulled up a pea plant and saw that the roots were covered in nodules. “We thought we were killing it,” said Francis Hickey to the Scientific American.

Emer brought the plant to her science teacher, who explained the nodules held beneficial bacteria known as rhizobia. The microbes convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into ammonia and other compounds that help the plant thrive.


From this, an idea was formed and the girls decided to experiment. “We became really interested in what this bacteria can do and what people haven’t done with it so far,” said Sophie Healy-Thow.

They conducted over 120 experiments and recorded more than 120,000 measurements (now that’s dedication!) and came to the conclusion that rhizobia sped up the rate which barley seeds grow by 50%, and increased crop yield by as much as 74%.

The girls claim the bacteria could reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and they also say by the year 2050 we will need 50% more food to keep the earth’s population fed. In essence, these three teenagers could’ve solved the hunger crisis around the world. Wow! Now these are the types of female roles models we need to hear more about.

Oh and they aren’t the only global teen girls who are making a difference in the STEM world. In July 2014, 18 year-old Canadian girl Hayley Todesco from Calgary won the Canadian Google Science Fair with her idea to clean up toxic waste faster using filters made from sand and bacteria.


Hayley told CBC news that based on her research, her technique could break down toxic compounds found in oilsands tailings 14 times more quickly than letting them sit, stored in tailings ponds as they mainly are now.

“The significance of these results is the discovery of a sustainable way to decrease the detoxification of tailings ponds from centuries to decades,” she wrote in a summary posted on the Google Science Fair website.

Her idea came from a grade 5 class project where her and her classmates were asked to come up with a way to combat the local pollution problem, and also design drinking water filters for Africa.

It took her 2 years to complete the project and about 120 tries with different designs to get a working system, which relied on gravity to pull oilsands tailings through sand topped with a film of bacteria in IV bags. She sacrificed a lot of school time to perfect her idea in time for the Google Science Fair, and it paid off.

Confused about all the science-speak? Don’t worry, you don’t need to understand the details of the project, necessarily. The main reason for us sharing these stories is to show you don’t have to have a science degree, lots of money, influence, power and friends in high place to make a difference. Once we start thinking outside the box (i.e, away from pop culture, celebrities and superficial things) we start to tap into our true passion and find our purpose.

It’s super inspiring to see this group of teen girls set an example for other girls in their community, and it’s also great to see initiatives like the Google Science Fair to encourage young minds in the STEM fields. We are all about promoting positive role models and encouraging young women to live unique, passionate and successful lives that they define and design their own way.

Also, we hope this story will get the attention of the World Health Organization, it would be a shame if the Irish girls’ idea wasn’t used in some way because clearly they are onto something!

Check out Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey, and Sophie Healy-Thow describe their project below:






One Comment

  1. So awesome to see these young women taking the lead in this field. Finding a solution to end world hunger has been a personal passion point of mine. I’m excited to see what further work these talented ladies turn out.

    Jen Hacker | The Single Diaries

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