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“Rising Star” Makes Friends, Memories, and Learns About STEM

Cassie Drury from Louisville, Kentucky won one of two Rising Star awards at the 2012 Broadcom MASTERS, a national competition for 6th-8th grade students. This award included participation in Broadcom MASTERS International, a companion program that provides a unique opportunity to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for select middle school students from around the world.

My experiences as a Broadcom MASTERS finalist were incredible! I learned so much and made some of the best memories of my life. I often feel like it was just last week because of the ease with which I am able to recall many memories. My favorite challenges were the Rube Goldberg machine and Build a Better Building. [Finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS travel to Washington, DC and compete in team hands-on challenges.]

In the Rube Goldberg machine challenge, we learned about energy transfer and had to create a system with at least seven energy transfers that moved a toy car onto a target. My team had so much fun building our mechanism and it even worked on the first try! My other favorite was the Build a Better Building challenge. In this challenge, we had to construct a building out of household materials that we bought on a budget from the “store” that was provided.  After purchasing our materials, we got to work constructing our building. However, this building needed to be built to sustain a hurricane. So, after we concluded our construction we went out and put our building to the test with a leaf blower. It was able to sustain the wind with minimal damage. These are just two examples of the many fun challenges during Broadcom MASTERS. I made so many fantastic memories in Washington D.C!

The research that qualified me for Broadcom MASTERS was focused on the activation of stem cells during wound healing. I was trying to find out if a diffusible factor, like a protein, gets released when cells are injured. I modeled my research with planarian worms capable of regeneration. I found a ton of interesting things, but the most interesting was that there was a factor released that sped up wound healing. What I mean by that is injured planarians released this factor and when a planarian was put in a position to receive this factor, it regenerated much faster than usual. This was an amazing result that I am still in awe of to this day.

I became interested in this topic in sixth grade. There were many things that influenced my choice of research in this field. One of which was my very inspirational teacher, Mr. Fred Whittaker, who began teaching biology. I was immediately captivated by the awe and artwork of cells. I also had a friend working in the planarian line of research that introduced me to the worms. I have always been curious about the working of medicine. So in my first year, I looked at aspirin’s effect on wound healing in planarian. At the end of the project, there were several unanswered questions. I decided to take the most intriguing and study it more closely.

Attending Intel ISEF [as part of the Broadcom MASTERS International program] was a truly spectacular experience! I have never been in such a multicultural environment before. I met so many amazing people from all over the world. It was an incredible experience that I am so grateful I was able to have.

I have been greatly influenced by my experiences in independent research and in the Broadcom MASTERS competition.  I have developed my problem solving skills and have learned to try and think critically in all situations. I think these experiences have made me more independent and excited to try new things. I now know there is no reason not to try something, because anything is possible and you never know where things could take you. Broadcom MASTERS has opened my eyes to the possibilities of everything I can achieve. I have also learned about how necessary STEM principles are in our everyday life and the importance of engineering in all aspects of science.

My advice to other students is to stay interested and curious in science because it is changing constantly. If you are curious, you never know where/what your curiosity might lead you to. Science is a field where there is always something new to uncover. And never underestimate what you can accomplish.

For finalists in the 2013 Broadcom MASTERS competition, my advice is that it is an unbelievable experience, so keep your mind open at all times and enjoy it. Make memories and hold on to them, because you will always want look back on them. Make friends, because you may never be in a place where there are 29 other like-minded people just waiting to make connections with you.”

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