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Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Inspires Broadcom MASTERS International Delegate

5:30AM, March 21, 2013

Neel Sharma, 14, from Ontario, Canada, 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. Neel discusses his experience below. 

What was your experience being a Broadcom MASTERS International delegate like?
In one word, Broadcom MASTERS was EXTRAORDINARY. It was truly spectacular to be exposed to a group of like-minded peers from a variety of cultures and nationalities, brought together by a common love for science. It was also very beneficial that the program was held at Intel ISEF. Because of this, we were able to inter-mingle with the finalists and see the amazing, high-level projects, conjured up by mere high school students. My favorite memory was meeting and making some great international friends. Science fairs are great for meeting people who think like you, love science like you, and can become great friends. Although the event is only a few days, these friends can be with you forever; simply asking them for an email, or adding them on Facebook can result in a long-lasting friendship.

Was this the first time you had traveled to the United States?
Broadcom MASTERS was not my first excursion to the States. As Kingston, Ontario, my home, is located very close to the Canada-U.S. border, it is not uncommon for me to venture to the United States. Interestingly, I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, I had not visited my hometown since I was a small child. Intel ISEF, hosted in Pittsburg, brought me closer to Philadelphia than I had been in years. 

Can you provide a short description of the research you presented in order to qualify as a delegate?
For my science fair project, I wanted to find the safest and most effective way to clean up an oil spill. I focused on three cleaning agents: human hair, oil absorbent polymer, and dish soap. I placed the agent onto the oil, removed it, and viewed how much oil was left over. The hair removed the most, and the dish soap the least. For the safety component of the experiment, I viewed the survival rate of brine shrimp, commonly referred to as sea monkeys, when exposed to the various agents. The results were surprising; hair was the safest, and soap killed more organisms that the crude oil itself. From my study, it could be concluded that hair was not only effective, but a safe way to clean up an oil spill.

How did you initially become interested in science and this topic specifically?
My entire life, I have had a passion for science. As a kid, I have fond memories of conducting countless numbers of scientific experiments. Growing up, I would always look forward to my family's annual trip to Captivia, Florida, an island in the Gulf of Mexico. A few years ago, the Gulf was hit hard by an oil spill; this threatened my favorite vacation spot. After this event, I began to become extremely interested in oil spills and how to clean them up.

What did you learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles through participating in the Broadcom MASTERS International?
Broadcom MASTERS truly gave me a broader view of science. The beauty of this program is, each day, we learned about a new topic; by the end, we had been exposed to everything from crime scenes to robots. I also became much more aware of how applicable science is to everyday life and how important it is to creating new products, companies and jobs.

Do you have any advice for young students interested in science? For delegates attending this year’s Broadcom MASTERS International?
My advice to any young students interested in science fairs, and in science in general, is to never give up. Science is based upon trial and error. For me, I had to compete in many science fairs until I reached the national level, and finally, Broadcom MASTERS International. If I had given up in the beginning, none of this would have happened. For those going to Broadcom MASTERS International, be very attentive while you are there because it is actually a great opportunity to learn practical things from some of the world's top scientists, try to meet as many other delegates as you can because you will learn a lot about what it is like to grow up in other countries, and remember to have lots of FUN!

The 2013 Broadcom MASTERS International will be held May 12-17 in Phoenix, Arizona in conjunction with the Intel ISEF.

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