Some science experiments don’t require a big lab, expensive equipment or complex research methodologies to yield high-impact data.
That’s one of the lessons learned by this year’s Broadcom MASTERS® Grand Prize winner: Annie Ostojic, 13, of Munster, Ind., among other important discoveries she’s acquired through an exploration of physics, food science and materials engineering.
Ostojic said that as a child, her natural curiosity grew while doing what she described as “kitchen science” with her family.
Inspired by the less-than-appetizing results of an unevenly heated frozen dinner, Ostojic set out to experiment with various types of food, reflective materials and packaging design to see if she could improve the outcomes of microwave cooking. Her findings guided her to design a more energy efficient microwave that ensures food cooks more thoroughly.
She looked at how the shape of the microwave oven cavity and turntable led to the creation of hot spots. She first tried lining the microwave with reflective materials to redirect heat in toward the center of the oven. Aluminum foil worked best, she found, as did altering the shape of the microwave cavity. By rounding the rectangular cavity, she could effectively concentrate heat toward its center.
Not only is this good for consumers, but it’s also good for the environment because Ostojic’s idea has the potential to reduce the energy used by the more than 90 percent U.S. households that have a microwave. She has since applied for a patent for her new microwave design.
It’s this type of real-world application, along with her STEM knowledge and ability to collaborate, inspire and motivate others as a natural leader, which landed Ostojic first place in the competition and the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize.
“Annie’s mastery of STEM principles combined with her demonstration of team leadership, communication and problem solving throughout the rigorous week-long completion makes her a role model for young people who are eager to partake in a program that helps them grow as scientists, engineers and innovators,” said Paula Golden, President and Executive Director, Broadcom Foundation and Director, Community Affairs, Broadcom Corporation.
A three time MASTERS participant, Ostojic won the Rising Star award as a 2014 Broadcom MASTERS finalist and represented the United States as one of 24 delegates from 14 countries at Broadcom MASTERS International this year. She competed against more than 2,200 entrants to return as a finalist in this year’s competition.
Second place winner Sebastian Mellen, 14, of San Diego, Calif., received the $10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation. In his research project and throughout team challenges over the past week, he demonstrated aptitude and skill in technical and mathematical concepts.
Mellen’s project, an innovative Android application dubbed “MathSuite,” can help students do a broad range of algebra calculations that are routinely used in math, physics and other sciences.
Broadcom MASTERS winners were chosen from the 30 top finalists (14 girls and 16 boys) from 14 states representing 29 schools. Winners were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists and engineers and were given their awards at a ceremony that closed the week-long competition in Silicon Valley.
To learn more about the competition and see the winners of the STEM, Team, Rising Star and Leadership Awards, read the press release.