By Chris Casacchia
They came to Phoenix from as far as South Africa and as near as Tuba City, Ariz., in the heart of Navajo Nation.
Thora Mathilde Kjærsgaard, of Roskilde, Denmark, and Hong Kong native Shiu Sing “Isaac” Chan were among 16 out of the 27 Broadcom MASTERS International (BCMI) delegates who embarked on their first journey to the U.S. Nine middle schoolers, including Gabriel Ruiz of Caguas, Puerto Rico and Jiaqi “Linna” Niu of Beijing, were among those making return trips to the states. Four were from the U.S., including Tuba City eighth graders Jaycelyn Tallsalt and Mikyla Johnson; Katie Quinn of Louisville, Kentucky and Sriram Bhimaraju, an avid archer from Cupertino, California.
The impressive cohort included a few multilinguists such as Madhura Kumar, of Bangalore, India, and Yu-Tang “Bill” Shen, of Taichung, Taiwan. Madhura hails from Bangalore, India, the nation’s center of innovation home to more than 12 million residents. This is a world apart from the dusty backcountry of Fine Flower, Australia, home to delegate Dean Chapman, who lives on a large beef cattle farm more than an hour’s drive to the nearest town of Grafton, where he attends school. Language, customs and dress may have underscored their differences, but kindness, curiosity, achievement and love of science ultimately united this year’s class of BCMI delegates.
“Science is technically everywhere. I can learn about more things, how things really work if I’m into science,” said Shen, 14, who’s fluent in Japanese, English and Mandarin. “All the Broadcom MASTERS, all the students, we love the same things.”
Eighth grader Damian Van Der Merwe, age 14, who started coding voice bots at 10-years-old, naturally enjoys fixing computers and other machines. Leena Almusaed, 12, was inspired to compete in science fairs by her sister, an ISEF finalist last year, the world’s largest international competition of its kind that draws 1,800 high school students annually from over 80 countries, regions and territories.
“I am really excited because it’s the first time Saudi Arabia has participated in the Broadcom MASTERS International and I’m the first Saudi girl and student,” she said. “I’m really happy about that.”
The delegates’ skills extend far beyond STEM though. Madhura, who is intrigued by analytical chemistry and astrophysics, also has a love of music. The vocalist is classically trained in South Indian Classical Carnatic Music and is an avid reader of Sanskrit literature. SangYoon Lee, 13, who was inspired by noted South Korean neural networks programmer, Seo Ji-min, is a star pianist. Freddie Howells, from the small Welsh town of Usk, plays the violin in two orchestras. The 13-year-old also has a black belt in Taekwondo, one of two delegates with some serious martial arts chops. Lanesboro, Ireland native Éabha Kenny, who hopes to discover a sustainable fabric and establish an online retail clothing and accessories shop, has represented the Emerald Isle in a world karate championship. This year’s class of Broadcom MASTERS International delegates came to Phoenix as wide-eyed strangers and left with deep friendships with fellow aspiring scientists from across the globe, fresh with new experiences and skills that will last a lifetime.
“It’s really interesting, all the different people and backgrounds,” said Dean, a burgeoning card, coin and dice magician and one of four delegates who live on working family farms. “I will always keep it as a memory.” Linna, who enjoys playing the harp, oboe and horseback riding, called the week-long experience fascinating. “I have some new friends and learned some new languages,” said the 14-year-old ninth grader who’s interested in pursuing computer engineering.
“I think I’ve made friends for life,” Freddie echoed. Visiting the U.S. for the first time and befriending like-minded students around the world moved Kristyna Landsingerova, who’s from the small town of Holice in the Czech Republic.
“When I was twelve I wanted to be here in the USA,” the 14-year-old said. “And now that dream has come true.”