Reunion group Just what does it mean to compete in the Broadcom MASTERS?

Paula Golden, President and Executive Director, Broadcom Foundation and Director, Community Affairs, Broadcom Corporation, asked six Broadcom MASTERS alumni from 2011-2014 to reflect on their experiences with the 2015 class. Each of the six had remarkably gone on to distinguish themselves as competitors and winners in other STEM competitions, internships at Stanford and the NASA Ames Research Center and share their STEM passions with elected officials at all levels, including President Barack Obama.

Overwhelmingly, they agreed that Broadcom MASTERS changed their lives.

“Broadcom MASTERS cemented my love of science. Everyone there encouraged me to stay in the field,” said Holly Jackson, 2014 Samueli Foundation prize winner. “When I came back to school, I got to share my experience with teachers and students, which was very touching for me and inspiring to younger students.”

Jackson interned at NASA Ames for six weeks this past summer where she created 3-D models of various truss structures in new CAD software developed by Matt Keeter from MIT called Antimony. She is continuing her internship during the school year and is working on a new science fair project involving truss structures.

In addition to being inspired to pursue their passion, alums spoke about the 21st century skills they gained beyond the disciplines of STEM, including collaboration, teamwork and the art of communicating.

“The experience broadened my scope of science and gave me new skills in presenting my work and working in teams,” said Shishir Dholakia, 2012 Broadcom MASTERS finalist. “I also learned how to code using the Raspberry Pi and I was fascinated by it. After the competition, I made a program to control our telescope at night with the Raspberry Pi.”

Shishir’s brother, Shashank, also a 2012 Broadcom MASTERS finalist, said he realized that he learned “life skills” as a Broadcom MASTER.

“I will use the teamwork skills that I developed during the Broadcom MASTERS throughout my life,” he said.

Alumus Jessika Baral, the first winner of the Samueli/Marconi prize for Innovation in 2012 noted, “Despite my age and gender, I learned that “Broadcom MASTERS showed me that women can be engineers, and science is a lot of fun. I can work on programming and wiring, and strive to improve my world.”

In 2013, Baral was invited the White House to showcase her work to the President, and later that spring she, the Dholakia brothers and 2012 Samueli Prize winner Raymond Gilmartin traveled to the California State Capitol in Sacramento to present their science fair projects to leaders in the California Assembly and Senate. They also participated in an in-depth discussion with California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson about efforts to help better educate young Californians in STEM subjects. Their impression was so great that the superintendent made a special trip to Silicon Valley to acknowledge the work of the Broadcom Foundation as sponsors of the Broadcom MASTERS and present a new award in the CEO’s honor.

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Rajiv Moova with fellow alums at the reunion.

Rajiv Movva, who won first place in Mathematics for his project on diabetes in 2014 said, “Broadcom MASTERS gave me the confidence I needed to continue with math and science, and the motivation to continue in this field. It sparked my curiosity and gave me a support group.”

The ultimate goal of the Broadcom MASTERS competition is to inspire students to become the next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators who will solve the grand challenges of the future. Many of these projects accomplish that goal by finding solutions in healthcare, transportation and communication that affect our quality of life.

Valerie Ding, a 2011 Broadcom MASTERS alum, earned a prestigious Davidson Fellows Scholarship for her advanced research that has the potential to make a positive contribution to society. Ding has won several international STEM awards including Intel ISEF two-time Fourth Place Grand Award,Google Science Fair Top 15 Global Finalist and the International I-SWEEEP Olympiad Silver Medalist. Read more about Ding here.

“Broadcom MASTERS was the initial spark that motivated me to improve my understanding of the world around us,” she said. “The judges asked really probing questions, and the competition experience took me into the next level of my education. I realized there was so much more to learn, and that the field of science is vast, beautiful and complex.”

Watch the video of the 2015 alumni reunion and reflection.