John Neill Describes His "Amazing Journey" to Broadcom MASTERS International - Society for Science Skip to content


John Neill Describes His “Amazing Journey” to Broadcom MASTERS International

John Neill from Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom was one of 18 delegates selected to attend the first-ever Broadcom MASTERS International program. Broadcom MASTERS International is a companion program to the domestic Broadcom MASTERS that provides a unique opportunity to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for select middle school students from around the world. Delegates participate in a program structured specifically for them, as well as participate in various facets of Intel ISEF.  

The idea all started at home. In the mornings, Mum sometimes couldn’t find her car keys, so we were often late for school.  The keys were never really lost – just misplaced or sitting in a strange place –like the fridge!? I noticed that when Mum or Dad couldn’t find their mobile phone that they simply rang the number and then they could hear their phone ringing. I thought it would be great if you could do the same to find your keys.

I spent a number of months researching how mobile phones worked and visiting mobile phone shops to see how bits I did not need could be taken away. I cut up and took apart old phones that the shops had given me.  I decided to enter the Sentinus Young Innovators/Young Engineers competition because I knew this was a good idea, and if I could design it well and get it to do exactly what I wanted then it would actually be a very popular product. Among other awards, I was selected as the Young Engineers Overall Winner, which earned me a trip to represent Northern Ireland in the UK Finals.

Nine months later – the UK Finals. I had spent the time in between tidying up my work and researching more to advance my product. I even Skyped an electronics company in China – but once he knew my age, my Mum had to talk to him! I wanted a better housing for my gadget so I got my Mum to take me around injection moulding companies but it was far too expensive just to produce 5 or 6 of what I wanted. I then looked at prototyping companies and when I explained what I wanted and asked about the cost – one said they would do it for free. I sent my designs and colour preferences and a week later they were ready – absolutely fabulous. Now my “Keycall” looked realistic.

The UK Finals in Birmingham were just fantastic and I was one of two students who won the prize to attend Broadcom MASTERS International. I was also the UK Junior Winner for Engineering and Technology 2012 and The Young Engineers for Britain Best Project Aged 12-14. Again – wow!

USA – Here I come!

This was the first time that international delegates had been invited to the Broadcom MASTERS.  For me, from start to finish, it was, using an American phrase  –   just an awesome experience. This was not the first time that I had visited the United States, but it was th e most exciting invitation and I was so looking forward to sharing ideas and competing with other students. There were only 18 international delegates chosen from across the world.  These were all top students who had performed well or won their national competitions.  We all managed to communicate very well together as long as we spoke  very slowly!

During the week we carried out various activities in order to get to know each other and to allow us to work together more effectively on projects where we could use our STEM knowledge and skills. It was wonderful to work with like-minded students my own age, who have a passion for STEM subjects, where we could work through problem solving activities to gain a greater insight into skills and processes used in maths, science and technology. You never know – I could end up working with someone I met in Pittsburgh on a world changing innovative project!

We visited Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, whose motto of the moment is – INSPIRE INNOVATION – and it was inspirational to visit. Here we had hands on experience with robots and computer programming.  Just  brilliant. The professors and students here were so interested in us and keen to encourage us in our studies. We also worked with staff from the Broadcom Foundation in science workshops to further our understanding – here science was really fun to learn.

However it was not all work for us – we did get to play. We visited Kennywood, a local theme park, and after a few comments about the physics of the rides we were allowed to run free and experience the thrills of the roller coasters. On our final day, we had our awards ceremony. We met in the same suite as  on the first day – but the atmosphere was very different – it was noisy and fun as by now we all knew each other very well. It was a happy occasion in that we received our medals but also very sad, in that we would not be together again as a group. However – we have been together as a group again – perhaps not physically but we have our own special group on Facebook, where we all keep in touch to find out what everyone is doing. Skype is also a great way to keep in touch – and  – yes we do talk STEM! But not all the time!

As part of the Broadcom MASTERS programme we took part in other activities during the week – we were invited to visit the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. This is for students who are now too old to participate in the Broadcom MASTERS.  This was another amazing experience – so inspirational. We could see the types of projects that senior students were presenting – many of which could change our world – for example – new ideas and concepts  in terms of better health, disease prevention in humans and in plants,  pollution control, sustainability, new products,  safety and engineering . Just too many to mention them all here  – absolutely brilliant.

I hope this has given you a flavour of my experience with Broadcom in Pittsburgh. I will finish with just one phrase that really incorporates my feelings surrounding this trip and that is –LIFE CHANGING. I have seen so much more, it has increased my confidence and self-esteem – I have talked with so many members of the public, teachers, university professors, Managing Directors, and Members of Parliament – to mention a few! It has inspired me to choose STEM subjects as my future – there are so many opportunities for careers out there. I want to work hard and I want to make a difference to the world I live in. I would love to one day return as a finalist to Intel ISEF.  I would love to meet up again with my fellow Broadcom MASTERS International Delegates. My dream is to see my key finding device on the market – the journey this far has just been – in an American term – AWESOME – and it appears that it is  not  quite over yet. I have been in talks with two companies regarding further research and development – I will keep you posted!

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