On the last day of the competition, Broadcom MASTERS finalists convened at the Computer History Museum to collaborate on challenges using a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, a low-cost, credit-card sized computer that taps Broadcom silicon. With a few shrieks and shocked looks, finalists greeted Eben Upton, co-creator of the Raspberry Pi and head of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
“I really enjoyed meeting the creator of Raspberry Pi because the computer was the main technology in my science project,” said one finalist.
Upton met with each team, sharing his experiences, providing tips on coding and encouraging each finalist to follow his or her passion.
“We started Raspberry Pi to solve a local problem – the collapse in students wanting to study computer programming,” Upton, a U.K.-based technical director for Broadcom said. “I thought we’d only sell 100 when we first started, but the Raspberry Pi has proven to be a successful tool to teach coding in a fun way. Now we even have Raspberry Pis in weather balloons that are launched to the edge of space, giving every school essentially a space program at a very low cost.”
Today, the Raspberry Pi is becoming ubiquitous throughout science fair projects and in classrooms around the world. Because of this, the finalists were challenged to think beyond basic programming, and into applying coding skills to structural design and electrical engineering.
The Raspberry Pi Challenge, designed by Computer History Museum Education Programs Manager Kate McGregor, encourages finalists to use the Raspberry Pi in a novel way with everyday items such as cardboard, tape, golf balls and aluminum foil. With many moving parts to design, code and build, the teams had to problem-solve and collaborate.
“Our team didn’t know much about computer programming, so this experience pushed us to think past what we already knew and take chances,” said one finalist. “We encouraged each other to keep trying. We may not have achieved the best results, but we worked well together.”
Next, the finalists stopped at Google headquarters, where they asked myriad questions (“Just what happens when one pushes the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button?”), had lunch at the commissary and got to try their hand programming at one of the Valley’s pioneering technology companies.
“Silicon Valley is the capital of creativity where everyone is innovating and you feel connected to this spirit of innovation,” said one finalist.
Back at the Computer History Museum, a final challenge was inspired by computer science pioneer Charles Babbage, who designed the first automatic computing engines in the Victorian era (a replica of a Babbage-designed engine is on display at the Computer History Museum).
Finalists were tasked with comparing methodologies of “old technology” — such as cartography — to draw conclusions about the innovations of the future. Taking measurements from a life-sized map, the teams recreated their own map designs using software and brainstormed real-life applications for them, such Google’s self-driving car (which is also on display at the Museum).
Up next, finalists will explore careers in STEM and meet with SSP alumni who also got their start competing in national science fairs, including Broadcom President and Chief Executive Officer, Scott McGregor.
Stay tuned tonight to find out who will win the Samueli Foundation grand prize of $25,000, a gift of Susan and Henry Samueli, Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board, and Chief Technical Officer of Broadcom Corporation, among other top awards and accolades including Team Award and Class Speaker.