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Two teenagers from the southern African country of Swaziland have won Scientific American’s inaugural Science in Action award, part of the Google Science Fair. The prize is awarded to a project that addresses a social, environmental or health issue to make a practical difference in the lives of a group or community.

This year’s winners are Sakhiwe Shongwe of Siteki and Bonkhe Mahlalela of Simunye, both 14. Their project explores an affordable way to provide hydroponics to poor subsistence farmers, enabling them to grow their crops and vegetables in very large quantities and within limited space without using soil.

In addition to a $50,000 prize, Shongwe and Mahlalela will have access to a year’s mentorship and will travel to Google’s California headquarters in July to compete in the 13-to-14-year-old age category in the overall Google Science Fair.

Here are excerpts from an interview conducted via e-mail with each winner before they knew they had won, by Scientific American’s Rachel Scheer.

via It’s Okay to Be Smart.

"Hey kiddo, did you know that there’s a car that drives itself?" And so began the kid’s introduction to Google’s Driverless Car. From PC Mag

Google released the video to celebrate that it has safely completed 200,000 miles of computer-lead driving.

The video shows [Steve] Mahan sitting in the driver’s seat as the car steers itself, using radar and lasers to make sure the road is clear. The car takes him through the drive-through of Taco Bell, then to the dry cleaners as Mahan jokes that “this is some of the best driving I’ve ever done.”

"Ninety-five percent of my vision is gone, I’m well past legally blind," Mahan says in the video.  "Where this would change my life is to give me the independence and flexibility to go the places I both want to go and need to go, when I need to do those things."

Google said it arranged Mahan’s ride through a carefully programmed route as a special test outside of its core research efforts.

"We organized this test as a technical experiment, but we think it’s also a promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met,"

As I think so often when posting to TKSST: The future is now (finally)!

Being hailed as Google Street View for the Great Barrier Reef, the Catlin Seaview Survey will begin a comprehensive study of the natural world wonder in September of 2012. Using a special “squidlike camera to capture 360-degree photos, the survey will be observing the effects of climate change on this very sensitive underwater ecosystem, as well as opening up the reef to the public. From their site

The images from the expedition, when stitched together, will allow scientists and the public at large to explore the reef remotely through any device connected to the Internet. It will allow them to choose a location, dip underwater, look around and go off on a virtual dive. It has the potential of engaging people with the life and science of our oceans in a way that’s not been possible until now. It is a very exciting time.

Yes it is! Check out the demo.

via It’s Okay to Be Smart.

The Google Science Fair 2012 has launched!

Students aged 13 - 18 from around the world are invited to ask questions and answer them through science experiments with a chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences, scholarships and real-life work opportunities…

Go to Google Science Fair to find out more information, and follow us on Google+, Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date.

And for anyone younger than 13, start asking and answering those questions now!