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Carolyn Jons Inspired to Pursue Life of Science

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Carolyn Jons received the Rising Star Award at the 2011 Broadcom MASTERS, winning her a trip to Broadcom MASTERS International, held in conjunction with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. In 2012, she again qualified as a Broadcom MASTERS finalist, where she went on to win the 2nd Place Engineering Award. In 2013, she returned to Intel ISEF as a finalist with her project on food preservation.

Looking back just a few years to 2011, I find it hard to believe how far I have come and what a huge impact science fair has had on my life. As a middle school student, science fair was simply a fun activity. I loved the creativity and problem solving involved with a good science fair project. I loved the moments of success after days of failures. While I was familiar with Intel ISEF, the prospect of becoming a finalist was a far off goal. I never expected to take my research anywhere past the state science fair; in fact, I didn’t even know such opportunities existed for younger students.   

That year, after winning my middle school regional science fair, I received a red Broadcom MASTERS packet. I had never heard of Broadcom MASTERS and, busy with other projects, I was tempted to discard the application. However, my regional fair director went out of her way to encourage me to apply. Although skeptical about my chances, I submitted the application. When named as one of thirty finalists, I was absolutely shocked. I had won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC to compete in the first Broadcom MASTERS competition!  

The Broadcom MASTERS competition was unlike any science competition I had ever participated in before. Judging no longer focused on one’s ability to present one’s own science project. Instead, science fair project presentations were only a small part of the competition. Judges assessed the finalists’ presentation, problem solving, collaboration, engineering, and mathematic skills through a series of engaging STEM challenges. The other 29 finalists were no longer just competitors, but rather friends and teammates.    

At the end of a strenuous, but exciting, day of competition, all the finalists toured Washington, DC together. We attended live theater, went on an Alexandria ghost tour, and visited all the national monuments by moonlight. One of my favorite memories from Broadcom MASTERS was our trip to the capital. At the capital, each finalist was given the opportunity to meet with their representatives. Rep. Erik Paulsen (Minnesota, 3rd District) took me down to the floor and let me cast the vote to keep the government open.   

The last day of Broadcom MASTERS was the award ceremony. In retrospect, an unequaled prize was getting a minor planet named after me (and each of the other 29 finalists). However, in 2011, I also won the Rising Star Award and an all-expense paid trip to the 2012 Pittsburgh Intel ISEF to be part of a new group, Broadcom MASTERS International. That was pretty cool, too, and motivated me to keep pushing harder.  Here I had the opportunity to represent the U.S. and spend time with top middle school scientists from all over the world.  

Blessed by the efforts of groups encouraging STEM activities, 2012 was another inspirational year for me. I was once again a Broadcom MASTERS finalist, and that year I won the second place engineering award. I received an iPad, as well as $2,500 to spend on a STEM related summer camp. With this money, I decided to attend a nanoscience summer seminar course at UCLA. That same year, I was able to work with a scientist at 3M on a project of my choosing, and I won second place at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.   

Following middle school, and Broadcom MASTERS, I have continued to be involved with STEM. In 2013, I was named an Intel ISEF finalist for my project involving the development of an oxygen removal bag to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth on fresh fruits and vegetables. At high school, I am an active member of my school’s robotics team. This year, I also founded my school’s first Science Bowl team. In addition, science fair continues to be an important and enjoyable part of my life. I am working on a project involving efficient steam generation using nanoparticles – and I cannot wait for my upcoming regional science fair!   

Because of these wonderful experiences, I have been inspired to pursue a life of science. Some very special people have played an important role in developing my science interests and I am indebted to them for their guidance and inspiration.  In forming the Broadcom MASTERS competition, the vision of Elizabeth Marincola (past-president of Society for Science & the Public) and Paula Golden (Broadcom Foundation) was instrumental in my development. Closer to home, my science fair director, Timara Underbakke, encouraged me to apply for these competitions and to take on ever more challenging projects. I also greatly appreciate my mentors, Dr. Maria Appeaning and Dr. Carolyn Ylitalo, who have been helpful in so many ways. Kids – an important piece of advice is to find yourself a wise mentor!

In appreciation for all that has been given to me, last year at the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair, I gave out the BRIGHT FUTURE award to a promising 6th grader.  I created this award to encourage a young student in STEM, and I also used this platform to pitch the benefits of applying to both the Broadcom MASTERS competition and other science competitions. Along with a certificate, I presented this young student a year-long subscription to Science News. And this will continue this year – and I hope for a long time.

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