October 1st marks the fifth year of our sponsorship of the Broadcom MASTERS, the nation’s leading science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competition for middle school students.

As Broadcom Foundation and Society for Science and the Public prepare for the 30 national finalists to congregate in Silicon Valley for the competition, it is a great time to reflect on how 120 Broadcom MASTERS alumni and over 50 Broadcom MASTERS International delegates are continuing to enhance their mastery of STEM.

The Broadcom MASTERS, an elite corps of winners among 75,000 nominees and 10,000 applicants in the U.S. and 13 international competitions in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, South Africa and Australia, have gone on to do incredible things in science and engineering, in high school, university, unique internships, STEM camps and world-renowned competitions.

In 2014 alone, Broadcom MASTERS alumni have risen as champions of the ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair), the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Beating out 1,600 international competitors, Broadcom MASTERS took home the Grand Prize – the coveted “Gordon Moore Award” and two “Best in” STEM categories, along with 33 other awards. They have garnered top honors at other competitions such as the Science Award at the Google Science Fair and the Davidson Institute Fellowship.

Nathan Han, 15, of Boston won the Gordon E. Moore Award of $75,000 for developing a machine learning software tool to study mutations of a gene linked to breast cancer at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public. Nathan is an alumnus of the 2011 Broadcom MASTERS.

Nathan Han, 15, of Boston won the Gordon E. Moore Award of $75,000 for developing a machine learning software tool to study mutations of a gene linked to breast cancer at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public. Nathan is an alumnus of the 2011 Broadcom MASTERS.

In addition to accolades garnered in competition, Broadcom MASTERS have demonstrated their science prowess as innovators at Maker Faires, as interns at NASA where they engineered futuristic space suits, fighting national crises at American University’s National Security and Intelligence Camp and as STEM champions at President Obama’s White House Science Fair.

Riding the Crest of the STEM Wave

The Broadcom MASTERS program is riding the wave of international awareness about the importance of early STEM education, a movement that has grown among policy-makers, educators and parents.

At the time Broadcom commenced its sponsorship of the MASTERS program, the acronym STEM was an unfamiliar term. Five years later, it is a household word.

Googling STEM yields research studies from every corner of the globe about the importance of early learning in STEM: the scientific method (observation, exploration), mathematics (quantity and numbers, structure, space, and change) and the engineering process (application of science and mathematics to innovate designs and technologies for societal use).

Broadcom Foundation chose to focus on advancing STEM education in middle school because this is an age where a student will decide to elect science and math courses in high school – choices that will make or break STEM college and career choices. President Obama regularly acknowledges the importance of this  commitment with his annual invitation to the White House Science Fair and this year, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will be on hand to recognize the importance of the Broadcom MASTERS among middle-schoolers who participate in regional and state competitions.

Measuring Broadcom MASTERS Success

Prestigious awards and new opportunities are only one way to measure the impact of the Broadcom MASTERS. One of our goals for the program is to develop cohorts of peers who will be connected as friends and STEM innovators throughout their lifetimes. Broadcom MASTERS events have facilitated a bond among hundreds of kids together so that they may to learn from each other and inspire others . We hope that these young scientists become the new breed of popular heroes, alongside the ranks of athletes or celebrities.

“My favorite experience from the Broadcom MASTERS was meeting all my fellow finalists,” said Daniel Bruce, 2014 Broadcom MASTERS alum. “They are an incredible group who continue to change my life and perspective even today, and I am confident they will continue doing so long into my future.”

Broadcom MASTERS International 2015 delegates pose for a selfie in Pittsburgh.

Broadcom MASTERS International 2015 delegates pose in Pittsburgh.

Broadcom MASTERS are becoming rock stars! They’ve been featured in television and print throughout many countries — the United States, China, India, Israel and the UK. It was exciting to see Broadcom MASTERS alumni Sahar Khashayar wow Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show with her iPhone early wildfire detection system this year. Watch the clip here.

Because  Broadcom Foundation is committed to increasing opportunity and equitable access to STEM, it has used the Broadcom MASTERS platform to engage STEM’s untapped talent — women and minorities whose college and career choices will be critical to increasing the number of scientists and engineers in the future.

After school is a terrific STEM learning space because kids have two-to-four consecutive hours to concentrate on their science fair project and learn how to apply the scientific method or engineering process. Broadcom Foundation has championed an after-school pilot program in Orange County, Calif., where Broadcom mentors have helped over 90 under-served students to present science fair projects at the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF); a successful model that is expanding to other communities.

In five short years, the Broadcom MASTERS has caught an important wave — one that has led to exponential growth of this program.

We have seen a 51 percent increase in applications from affiliated state and regional science fairs throughout the United States and expanded international reach to six continents around the world. We have much to be proud of at Broadcom – but at the top of my list are the Broadcom volunteers among top executives, engineers and administrators who have served as mentors, judges and presenters at affiliated science fairs. Through their commitment, the Broadcom MASTERS is giving young people the tools and confidence they need to be battle-tested and ready in the 21st Century.