On October 1, River Grace of West Melbourne, FL was announced the top winner of the 2013 Broadcom MASTERS. In late October, representatives from Broadcom Foundation and Society for Science & the Public traveled to West Shore Junior/Senior High School to present River’s school, teacher, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program of choice with additional award money.
Paula Golden, Executive Director of the Broadcom Foundation, presented Principal Rick Fleming and Dr. Brian Bingelli, Brevard Public Schools Superintendent, with a $1,000 check for West Shore to use for STEM programming. The check presentation was held in front of the entire 7th grade, the 70 students in the research class, and multiple guests from the school district. Golden talked to the students about Broadcom Corporation co-founder Henry Samueli’s 7th grade project to build a radio and how that inspired him to pursue a career in electrical engineering. She also lauded the school for helping to educate the students about what good project-based learning is all about, how the art of competition can get students started in that process, and for being an environment that encourages students to learn.
Allie Hewlett Stifel, Program Manager of the Broadcom MASTERS at Society for Science & the Public, presented both River’s teacher, Mary Anderson, and Keith Winsten of the Brevard Zoo with $500 Walmart gift cards on behalf of classroom sponsor, Elmer’s Products, Inc. River had the choice to choose the STEM program receiving the $500 award and selected the Brevard Zoo, where he conducted his research on radiated tortoises. After the event, Mary Anderson spoke about River:
We are all so proud of River. He’s an amazing research student and a great role model in the classroom. It’s also rare for a student to be so self-driven. He takes the initiative to come to us and ask for advice; he contacted the Brevard Zoo and Florida Institute of Technology on his own. He’s had a lot of stumbling blocks to overcome, and he’s remained so passionate about his research, which he does on his own time.
Keith Winsten told students that “science is really about illuminating what’s around you day to day” and that River had noticed something that no one else in his 25 years in the zoo field had recognized- the “dance” that the radiated tortoises do whenever it rains. He closed by praising River’s observation skills and reminding students that “science is out there waiting for you to see.”
River also had an opportunity to speak to the crowd of students and school district representatives. He described the Broadcom MASTERS experience as “a lot of fun,” and said that he was really excited to participate and “quite amazed” when he was announced as the top winner. He encouraged all of his fellow students to enter the Broadcom MASTERS this summer:
Everyone has something that they love. For me, that was tortoises. As long as you love something, you can be successful. Especially if you love science! I’m biased, because I do. I can’t wait to see what you all do.
River went on to thank Broadcom, Elmer’s, SSP, the West Shore faculty and administration, his parents, and Mary Anderson, who has been his research teacher for three years and “does a fantastic job with the research students. I don’t know where I would be without her.” He also thanked the dancing tortoises “who did all the work to get me here.” River wants to go to Madagascar in order to continue studying the tortoises in their natural habitat. Students also had an opportunity to view the Broadcom MASTERS highlights video, featuring River and the 29 other finalists as they participated in the week-long Broadcom MASTERS finals in Washington, DC.
West Shore Junior/Senior High offers year-long research classes to its’ 7th-12th grade students. They had 80 students from the school participate in the local science fair last year, of which 3 qualified to apply for the Broadcom MASTERS. All three of the applicants, including River, were named semifinalists. They have also had students qualify to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, an international fair for 9th-12th graders run by Society for Science & the Public.
Rick Fleming, West Shore Junior/Senior High School Principal, talked about how “immensely proud West Shore was of River” for being named the top winner and encouraged all of the 7th grade students present to participate. The students are in the process of working on science projects for their local fair.
Dr. Brian Bingelli, School Superintendent, makes a point to travel to regional and state science fairs that have Brevard County students participating in order to offer encouragement. “We have great kids, teachers, and mentors in schools here in Brevard County. We specifically try to get judges for our local fairs that are people of science, so our kids are prepared when they get to higher-level competitions.”
Broadcom and Elmer’s provide money for schools, teachers, and STEM programs in order to recognize the efforts that all three play into students’ success in hands-on learning.
Special thanks to Ka Dong, photographer, Jeremy Gluck and Reema Chauktora, photo editors, and Mark Schledorn, journalism teacher at West Shore Junior/Senior High School for their assistance with photography of the event.