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'I am going to be the first person on Mars'

December 12, 2016
Eleanor Sigrest spoke to her middle school about the benefits of science fair.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC.

Eleanor Sigrest won the top prize of $25,000 at the 2016 Broadcom MASTERS, the premier science competition for middle school students. The award also included $1,000 for Eleanor’s school, Louise A. Benton Middle School, and $1,000 for her science teacher. Below is a full transcript of Eleanor’s speech — given during an awards assembly at her middle school in Manassas, Va.

Hi everyone! I’m Eleanor, and I AM going to be the first person on Mars.

I want to thank Maya Ajmera and the Society for Science & the Public.

Broadcom MASTERS is an amazing program! Ms. Allison Stifel and her team from the Society for Science & the Public organized a weeklong event in Washington, D.C. which brought together 30 of us from across 15 states. We presented our science fair projects at the National Geographic Society that was open to the public and the media. I was interviewed by FOX TV and The Washington Post.

Throughout the week, we were challenged individually and as teams to explore STEM and STEM fields. We built prosthetic crab arms with home-made hydraulics. We coded a raspberry pie, designed a brain for a futuristic person from a galaxy far, far away, and we seined the Chesapeake Bay for fish and other aquatic life. We discussed our projects with the CTO of the United States of America at the White House. Our final event was a VIP gala dinner at the Carnegie Institute, where we heard a keynote address from the NASA engineer who's designing the spacesuit for a mission to Mars. At that dinner, I sat next to the former CEO of Intel who wants to introduce me to his wife who trained as an astronaut!

Everyone at Broadcom MASTERS was inspired by a real-world problem they witnessed.

You might be thinking science projects are too hard, or take up too much time, or I’m not interested in playing music to bean plants. But, science fair projects don’t have to be any of those things — everyone at Broadcom MASTERS was inspired by a real-world problem they witnessed: from landing a first-stage rocket back on earth, to preventing heat stroke in babies, to early detection of depression, to alternate sources of wind energy. Wow, those ARE hard projects. But they AREN’T too hard for us. We may only be in middle school, and we don’t have Ph.D.’s, but we see things differently, which is the perfect ingredient for innovation. Go for it, find a mentor, ask lots of questions, and believe in yourself.

We may only be in middle school, and we don’t have Ph.D.’s, but we see things differently, which is the perfect ingredient for innovation.

Yes, competing in a science fair is a lot of effort, but if you pick something you love it never feels like work. And the real reward is an event like Broadcom MASTERS, where you get to come together with friends with a common love of science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s hard to describe the bond that forms when you meet people with shared passions ... it feels like coming home. And even though we all knew there could be only one grand prize winner, because of that bond, everyone forgot there was a competition and we were all kind and supportive throughout the challenges. Each Broadcom MASTERS finalist deserved to win this award, and that motivates me to work as hard as I can to earn the honor of being the Broadcom MASTERS 2016 Samueli prize winner.

It’s hard to describe the bond that forms when you meet people with shared passions.

I want to thank my family for their support, encouragement, guidance, and unconditional love! And maybe now my mom will even let me cook up some combustion rocket fuel on the kitchen stove. My robotics team, the Astrobotz, and my mentors and coaches all deserve a special thank you for preparing me for my science project presentation and not killing me out of annoyance. I also want to thank the Society for Science & the Public and the Broadcom Foundation for the most amazing opportunity ever. Finally, I want to thank all my teachers, starting way back in kindergarten, to my Benton teachers and those who brought the science fair to Benton Middle School, and provided me with so many freedoms to grow my knowledge, imagination, and creativity, and who reminded me frequently to complete my Broadcom MASTERS application. So, I’m excited to present this check from Society for Science & the Public and the Broadcom Foundation to my teacher, Mr. Hutch, and another to my principal, Ms. Huebner, for our school, Benton Middle School.