WASHING TON — Even a tortoise enthusiast can speed through a three-day gauntlet of science, engineering and math challenges to claim victory. River Grace, 14,
of West Melbourne, Fla., did just that. At an awards ceremony October 1, he picked
up the top award of $25,000.
The teen was one of 30 finalists from 17 states who attended the third annual
Broadcom Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars,
or MASTERS, competition. “I had no idea I’d win this,” Grace said. “Any one of us
could have won.”
Nine additional finalists took home cash awards or funding to attend a science
camp. The Samueli Foundation, an organization created by Broadcom cofounder
Henry Samueli, provided Grace’s funds. The Broadcom Foundation and Elmer’s
Products together provided more than $500,000 in awards for finalists, semi-
finalists, their teachers and their schools.
Finalists qualify on the basis of a middle school science fair project, but Broadcom MASTERS is not a science fair. A student’s entry project counts for about
one-quarter of his or her score.
Grace’s project described an unusual swaying behavior in endangered tortoises
living at a breeding facility where he volunteers. Grace observed that the tortoises rise up on their legs and sway back and forth when it rains. He thought the
behavior might help the tortoises avoid drowning during flash floods in their
native Madagascar. But his experiments simulating flood conditions disproved
that notion; the purpose of the swaying remains unknown.
The rest of Grace’s winning score reflected his performance in a series of science
challenges. Over two days, the finalists competed as part of five-member teams.
Each team designed, built and tested electrical circuits as well as models of wind
turbine blades, roller coasters and tall buildings. Other tasks included analyzing data to figure out what caused a massive fish kill. The finalists also deciphered
which parts of certain Maya stone carvings denoted numbers representing dates.
“Congratulations to River and to all of our extraordinary finalists,” said Paula
Tortoise-studying teen takes top Broadcom prize
Golden, executive director of the Broadcom Foundation. Their skills, she said,
“represent the total spectrum of talent needed to take on the world’s biggest chal-
lenges in technology, healthcare, transportation and sustainability.”
“Each finalist should be terrifically proud of their accomplishments and we
look forward to following their bright futures,” said Rick Bates, interim chief
executive officer of Society for Science & the Public, which runs the competition
and publishes Science News. — Sid Perkins
Broadcom MASTERS Winners
The top prizes went to two 14-year-
olds with impressive science projects.
The Samueli Foundation Prize:
River Grace of West Melbourne, Fla.,
won $25,000. He studied an endangered tortoise’s behavior.
for Innovation: Eitan Acks of San
Diego won $10,000. He developed a
device to improve speech therapy.
STEM Award Winners
The following finalists were selected
for demonstrated skills and promise in
the disciplines represented by S TEM.
Science Awards: First place went to
Keoni Gandall of Huntington Beach,
Calif. He created a vector for genetically engineering a bacterium. Second
place went to Julienne Sauer of San
Ramon, Calif., who studied superconductors and frictionless motion.
Technology Awards: First place went
to Austin McCoy of Rochester, Minn. He
worked on disease-detection lab equipment for developing countries. Second
place went to Rebecca Bloomfield of
Colorado Springs, Colo., who studied
the effects of slope and remediation
on postfire sedimentation.
Engineering Awards: First place went
to Mihir Garimella of Pittsburgh, Pa.
His project was on digitally re-creating
smells. Second place went to
Sidhika Balachandar, of Gainesville,
Fla., who worked on soundproofing.
Mathematics Awards: First place
went to Johann Kailey-Steiner of
Denver, who worked on rocket design.
Second place went to Joshua Wentzel
of Portland, Ore. His project was on
homemade air cannons.
Rising Stars Award Winners
Two finalists were selected for scientific promise and spirit of cooperation.
Krystal Horton of Menifee, Calif.,
did a project on a beetle infestation.
Sean Weber of Sequim, Wash., studied
waves and mussels. P A T
River Grace (third from left) won the Broadcom MASTERS competition. With him were,
from left: Henry Samueli of Broadcom Corp., Susan Samueli of the Samueli Foundation, Scott
McGregor of Broadcom Corp., Paula Golden of Broadcom Foundation and Rick Bates of SSP.