“Iron Man 3” Contest Finalists Get Hands-On with the Technologies that Connect everything®

Iron Man 3: Inventor and Innovator Fair finalists visit Broadcom’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters get hands-on with smartphones.

The dozen or so middle school students who spent a morning in the Demo Center at Broadcom’s headquarters this week were like kids in a high-tech candy store. The students, nominees of the Broadcom MASTERS®  science fair competition and finalists of Marvel’s Iron Man 3: Inventor and Innovator Fair, spent the day exploring some of the most coveted tech gadgets that contain Broadcom chips, such as the Nintendo Wii U, the Raspberry Pi and much more.

Read more about the Iron Man 3: Inventor and Innovator Fair.

But they also spent some time chatting with Jacob Rael, director of wireless radio frequency engineering in the Mobile & Wireless Group at Broadcom who shared stories of how we taught himself to code, how he’d scheme to get access to a computer as a kid and how he cultivated his love of engineering with science fair projects – just like the MASTERS participants. Sticking with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), he said, would help them develop a uniqueness that will stand out later, when the college years roll around.

“Of course you have to get good grades and good letters of recommendation, but you also need a distinguishing factor, something a little different,” he said. “Give yourself a chance to develop a little different tilt so you can get into that top school.”

View more photos from the event on Facebook.

The students peppered Rael with all sorts of questions. They wanted to know everything – how fractal shapes can improve capacitors within chips, how prototypes get made at Broadcom, all about wireless standards for network interoperability and the immense internal drive and grit that it takes to be a successful engineer.

“Engineers are extremely competitive people,” Rael, a 13-year Broadcom veteran and expert in Bluetooth, Wireless Local Area Network and cellular radios, told them. “We hate to lose.”

The students were particularly intrigued by the development of smartphones on display, such as the new HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus. Asked what they find to be most impressive about today’s smartphones, the students rattled off their answers.

“Touch screen!” yelled one student.

“Web surfing!” said another.

“That they confuse my mom,” cracked another.

The trek through Broadcom was only the beginning for these students. Their day of a science-filled whirlwind tour was still to include a behind-the-scenes visit to Disney Studios, a meeting with Disney Imagineers, a trip to Disneyland and a visit to Discovery Science Center.

The Broadcom MASTERS, a program of Society for Science & the Public (SSP), is an international science fair competition sponsored by Broadcom Foundation to inspire 6th, 7th and 8th graders to stay with Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering as Rising Stars in these STEM fields.

The finalists, whose nationally-recognized science projects include topics such as stem cells and gene mutations, are set to see their projects on display at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood this month. They’ll compete for four grand prizes, set to be awarded tonight.