Grants & Awards

Middle Schoolers Recognized for STEM Projects

The MASTERS is almost finished. No, not the one that involves golf clubs in Augusta. This one is taking place in Silicon Valley, where 30 middle school finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS competition have gathered to vie for substantial financial awards. Over four days, participants are judged on science or engineering projects, proficiency in a STEM subject and their ability to collaborate with teammates during the event. Winners may take home a $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize or the $10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation, among others. (Those prizes are named after Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli.)

The event is the final act for this year's series of competitions. Those started in January, when students began entering their science and engineering projects in regional and state fairs throughout the country hosted by the Society for Science & the Public, a non-profit that works to keep the public engaged in science and science education.

By June 10 percent of participating middle schoolers were selected to compete in the next level, which involved completing online applications where the nominees highlighted the STEM aspects of their projects; talked about somebody who has inspired them and offered thoughts about career interests.

By mid-August 300 semifinalists were selected by a panel of scientists and engineers. From those 30 national finalists were picked. Those are the students who have headed to California to compete in the final rounds.

Along with the individual prizes, Broadcom MASTERS will present each finalist's school with $1,000 to use on STEM activities and give science teachers a subscription to Science News magazine.

Among the projects undertaken by the finalists were these:

  • Manasa Bhimaraju from Cupertino, CA created a low-cost animated teaching tool for the study of the Periodic Table with an interface for people who are visually impaired;
  • Soyoun Choi in Melbourne, FL explored the effect of bilingualism on cognitive development in adolescents;
  • Natasha Chugh from Plano, TX came up with a shower water usage reminder system; and
  • Maximilian Du in Manlius created a "new, better and economic method to measure and extract caffeine from drinks."

MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) is intended to encourage middle school students to continue their studies in STEM throughout high school. The program is a partnership between Broadcom and the Society.

Two finalists from the event will be named as "Rising Star" delegates who will represent the United States at the Broadcom MASTERS International, which takes place next spring in Phoenix. Delegates will attend Intel ISEF, the world's largest international high school science fair in May 2016.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.