Many try to define what it takes to be a leader – a recent Inc. Magazine article listed confidence, decisiveness and honesty as key traits. But, how are these qualities nurtured in young people?

Some may say becoming a leader starts with formative experience– such as the Broadcom MASTERS program.

Last month, 30 middle school finalists were chosen from all over the country and flown to Silicon Valley for a rigorous, weeklong competition that tested their mastery of STEM principles and team leadership. With challenging competitions each day coupled with team building activities throughout the week, the finalists quickly got to know each other and how to work together.

Unbeknownst to the finalists they were asked to elect a “class speaker” at the end of the competition. They were asked to elect one of their peers who demonstrated leadership qualities throughout the week. Avery Clowes, 13, from Bolton Mass. was elected the winner.

Clowes (left) congratulates a fellow finalist

Clowes (left) congratulates a fellow finalist

“Being elected by my peers made me feel amazing,” he said. “I think it might be even more of an accomplishment to be recognized by my peers. I doubt anyone was actively thinking about their class speaker choice throughout their time at Broadcom MASTERS, which means I made a subconscious impression on people. I think that’s something to be proud of.”

“As I watched this year’s Broadcom MASTERS class interact throughout the week, I saw in Avery the intellectual acumen, inclusiveness and personableness that was greatly admired by his colleagues,” said Paula Golden, President and Executive Director of Broadcom Foundation and Broadcom’s Director of Community Affairs. “He was the first to step with praise to individuals and teams during competition and he had unscripted, unsolicited kind words for everyone throughout the week. While there were many fine young leaders in the Class of 2015, Avery was a standout.”

Clowes credits some of his leadership ability on past activities and experiences including Lego League and Destination Imagination (DI) where he solved complex technical challenge as a team and team sports like relay in track and soccer. He also mentors younger students in the classroom and is a role model for his younger twin siblings.

Clowes (right) works with his team on a marine sciences competition.

Clowes (right) works with his team on a marine sciences competition.

“These activities have given me experience in leading a small team and helped me develop communication and people skills,” Clowes said. “I’ve learned that a leader needs to be able to communicate his ideas to his teamates quickly and effectively. A leader also needs to know when to step back and observe within the team, from mistakes or from quieter moments.”

What qualities does Clowes think a leader must have?

“I think a leader needs presence. A leader needs to be confident and sure of his or her decisions,” he said. “People skills are also really important because leading people is really hard. Each person has needs, desires and aspirations that must be heard and encouraged. If not accepted, then coming to a compromise is a must.”

And what did he learn from his time at the Broadcom MASTERS? “I learned important things about teamwork as well as the value in having smart friends,” Clowes said. “I learned that in science, collaboration is essential to solving problems and teamwork is essential for meaningful work getting done. I got a glimpse of my future in science and engineering career at an innovative company.”

The future looks bright for Clowes, who also won first place in engineering for his project on an electrostatic generator. When asked about the future of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Clowes said, “There will be stress on all parts of our world from ecosystems to politics, STEM will give us ways of finding more definitive and powerful solutions to problems that arise. I want to play a part in finding those solutions.”Avery Clowes Fun Project Shot

Inaugural Scott A. McGregor Leadership Award

New to Broadcom MASTERS this year, the leadership award was named in honor of Scott A. McGregor, President and CEO of Broadcom, who championed the middle school competition from its infancy in 2010, when it was just a “big idea.” Broadcom MASTERS is now recognized throughout the United States and around the globe as the world’s premier middle school STEM competition.

Scott McGregor (left), Clowes (middle) and Superintendent Torlakson (right)

Scott McGregor (left), Clowes (middle) and Superintendent Torlakson (right)

McGregor spoke to the finalists together with Superintendent of Public Instruction,Tom Torlakson, at the awards ceremony last month. While presenting the award to Clowes he had this advice for the finalists:

“I encourage you to continue your exploration and to never be afraid to challenge yourself with new ideas,” McGregor said. “Companies such as Broadcom are eagerly waiting to hire you as the next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators.”