What's the best award you can give people who are trying to improve the world? MONEY.

Five innovative groups around the world just hit a $10 million payday. Google recently announced the winners in their Project 10^100, a global search for ideas that would ‘help the world the most’. While finalists were decided by Google employees, the ultimate winners were chosen by popular vote on the internet. Dean Kamen’s FIRST robotics competition will receive $3 million. The Khan Academy, which provides free educational videos on YouTube, is set to receive $2 million, as is the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and Public.Resource.Org. Shweeb will get $1 million to pursue their human powered monorail technology. By funding these groups, Google hopes to inspire meaningful change around the globe. Watch the video below to catch clips of each institution. These are all great choices, which makes me wonder if we’ll see more philanthropy based on popular vote in the future.

Project 10^100 took roughly 154,000 submissions for ideas and used more than 3000 Google employees to narrow them down to 16 finalists. Those ideas were then voted on via the internet back in 2009. The five winning ideas were “Provide quality education to Africa.” “Drive innovation in public transportation.” “Enhance science and engineering education.” “Make educational content available online.” and “Make government more transparent.” 10^100 spent the last year finding innovative groups to match with these ideas.

I don’t know much about the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Shweeb, or, but we’ve covered both FIRST and the Khan Academy before. These institutions can do a lot with a few million dollars. The Khan Academy was already very streamline – Khan himself was really the only employee – and this funding could mean a massive expansion in what school lessons it offers. I’m sure the other groups will likewise do great things with their prizes. (I’m really curious to see if Shweeb’s bike-like monorail pods will turn out to be anything but a pipe dream.) Congratulations to all five winners and kudos to Google and the Project 10^100 for putting money in the hands of people dedicated to improving the world.

When does the next round of submissions start?

[image credit: Google/Project 10^100 ]

[sources: Project 10^100]