Middle Schooler’s Invention Seeks to Correct Blind Spots; Wins $25,000 Top Award in the National Broadcom MASTERS Competition

WASHINGTON, DC (October 29, 2019) — Broadcom Foundation and Society for Science & the Public today announced that Alaina Gassler, 14, of West Grove, Pennsylvania, won the coveted $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, the top award in the Broadcom MASTERS®, the nation’s premier science and engineering competition for middle school students.

Through her project, Alaina Gassler is seeking to make driving safer by reducing blind spots. She designed a system that uses a webcam to display anything that might block the driver’s line of sight. Alaina was inspired to create her device after seeing her mother struggle with blind spots in their family automobile.

The Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars), a program of the Society for Science & the Public, inspires middle school students to follow their personal passions to exciting college and career pathways in STEM. Thirty finalists, including Alaina, took home more than $100,000 in awards.

The finalists were honored during an awards ceremony for their achievements in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) together with their demonstration of 21st Century skills, including critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaborative skills and team work.

The finalists are judged on projects that they presented at their state or regional science fair; their knowledge of STEM subjects and their demonstration of 21st Century skills in a series of hands-on challenges. These challenges included collaborating to design, code and build a functional program using Raspberry Pi; designing a medical pack that must hold a three-month supply of medicine and seining in the Chesapeake Bay.

“Congratulations to Alaina, whose project has the potential to decrease the number of automobile accidents by reducing blind spots,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News. “With so many challenges in our world, Alaina and her fellow Broadcom MASTERS finalists make me optimistic. I am proud to lead an organization that is inspiring so many young people, especially girls, to continue to innovate.”

“I speak for Henry and Susan Samueli as well as the Broadcom Foundation to express our excitement in awarding the Samueli Foundation Prize to Alaina for her remarkable achievements in all of the STEM challenges as well as her leadership in competition throughout week. It is her total contribution to the Broadcom MASTERS in addition to her impressive work on her science fair project as a talented young engineer seeking to improve automobile safety that earned her this prestigious award,” said Paula Golden, President of the Broadcom Foundation. “She, along with the entire Class of 2019, are already leaders in their fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These young innovators give every one of us hope for the future.”

Alaina Gassler, 14, West Grove, Pennsylvania, won the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, for her project reducing blind spots in cars and her exemplary performance during the Broadcom MASTERS’s hands-on challenges. The prize is a gift of Dr. Henry Samueli, Chairman of the Board, Broadcom Inc., and Chair of the Broadcom Foundation and his wife, Dr. Susan Samueli, President of the Samueli Foundation.

Rachel Bergey, 14, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, won the $10,000 Lemelson Award for Invention, awarded by The Lemelson Foundation to a young inventor creating promising solutions to real-world problems. Rachel developed a trap made of tinfoil and netting for the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species causing damage to trees in Pennsylvania.

Sidor Clare, 14, Sandy, Utah, won the $10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation, an honor made possible by Samueli’s generous donation of his 2012 Marconi Society Prize Award.  Sidor developed bricks that could one day be made on Mars, so that humans would not be required to bring building materials with us in order to build there.

Alexis MacAvoy, 14, Hillsborough, California, won the $10,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Advancement, which recognizes the student whose work and performance shows the most promise in health-related fields and demonstrates an understanding of the many social factors that affect health. Alexis designed a water filter using carbon to remove heavy metals from water.

Lauren Ejiaga, 14, New Orleans, Louisiana, won the $10,000 STEM Talent Award, sponsored by DoD STEM, for demonstrating excellence in science, technology, engineering or math, along with the leadership and technical skills necessary to excel in the 21st Century STEM workforce and build a better community for tomorrow. Lauren’s research focused on how current levels of ultraviolet light from the sun due to ozone depletion impacts plant growth and performance.

Broadcom MASTERS winners were chosen from the 30 finalists (18 girls and 12 boys) selected from 2,348 applicants in 47 states. Winners were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, engineers and educators. Each finalist’s school will receive $1,000 from the Broadcom MASTERS to benefit their science program.

In addition to the top prizes, the Broadcom Foundation and the Society also announced first and second place winners in each of the STEM categories of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, the Team Award and two Rising Stars who will be the U.S. delegates at the Broadcom MASTERS International and official observers to International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Winners Include:

The Samueli Foundation Prize: $25,000
Alaina Gassler, 
Improving Automobile Safety by Removing Blindspots

Lemelson Award for Invention: $10,000
Rachel Bergey, 
Spotted Lanternflies: Stick’em or Trick’em

Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation: $10,000
Sidor Clare, 
Bound and Bricked

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Advancement: $10,000
Alexis MacAvoy, 
Designing Efficient, Low-Cost, Eco-Friendly Activated Carbon for Removal of Heavy Metals from Water

STEM Talent Award, sponsored by DoD STEM: $10,000
Lauren Ejiaga, 
Ozone Depletion: How it Affects Us

STEM Award Winners:

First and second place winners of STEM Awards demonstrated acumen and promise in science, technology, engineering and math. First place winners were awarded $3,500 and second place winners receive $2,500 to support his or her choice of a STEM summer camp experience in the U.S. Each STEM Award winner also received an iPad. Top awards in math were sponsored by Robert John Floe, President, Floe Financial Partners.

Science Award:

  • First place: Ruhi Yusuf, Effectiveness of Different Plants as Coagulants to Purify Contaminated Drinking Water
  • Second place: Tyler Bissoondial, Identification and Characterization of Salt-Tolerant (stl) Mutants in Raphanus sativus

Technology Award:

  • First place: Kassie Holt, Bound and Bricked
  • Second place: Rishab Jain, The Pancreas Detective: A Novel Artificial-Intelligence-Based Post-Biopsy Tool to Screen Genetic Mutations Towards Personalizing Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Engineering Award:

  • First place: Rylan Gardner, Stall/Spin Recovery Via Increased Lift and Upwards Pitching Moment Using the Magnus Effect
  • Second place: Mercedes Randhahn, Opioid-Like Deactivation

Mathematics Award:

  • First place: Isabelle Katz, Analyzing Musical Instruments/Voice Using Signal Analysis and A Novel Color-Fingerprinting Technique for Vocal Training
  • Second place: Johan DeMessie, Salt-Stain Effect for a Rapid, Low-Cost Analysis of Drinking Water

Rising Stars Award:

In recognition of their promise as two of the youngest competitors, two Rising Stars win a trip to Anaheim, California in May 2020 as the United States delegate to Broadcom MASTERS International and Official Observer at International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest international high school science fair competition.

  • Mary Shea BallantineAutomotive Exhaust: Creating a Selective Environment for Bacteria
  • Kyle Tianshi, A Microscopic Particle Detector Using Laser Microscopy and Image Processing

Team Award:

Each member of the team that best demonstrates their ability to work together and solve problems through shared decision making, communication and scientific and engineering collaboration will receive a gift card to a science supply company to support their interests in STEM.

  • Green Team: Lauren U.C. Ejiaga, Kassie Holt, Alexis Tea MacAvoy, Ashwin Prabhakar and Kyle Tianshi

Scott A. McGregor Leadership Award:

Finalists select one student from the group based on their leadership abilities to represent their class as a speaker at the awards ceremony.

  • David Anand: Monitoring water quality of the Yellow Creek Watershed using macro-invertebrate sampling and automated continuous testing with a DIY microcontroller for physical and chemical measurements


For more information on the Broadcom MASTERS, visit the Broadcom Foundation and Society websites. To keep up with the Broadcom MASTERS, use the hashtag #brcmMASTERS or follow Broadcom Foundation and the Society on Twitter or the Society on Instagram. And to stay connected, visit the Broadcom MASTERS and Society Facebook pages. You can also follow the Society on Snapchat (Society4Science).

About Broadcom Foundation

Founded in April 2009, the Broadcom Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation the mission of advancing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education by funding research, recognizing scholarship and increasing opportunity. The foundation inspires young people to develop 21st Century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity in order to successfully pursue STEM careers.

Broadcom Foundation is a founding member of the STEM Ecosystem initiative in the US and Israel and serves an advisory role in Broadcom India’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The foundation’s signature programs, the Broadcom MASTERS® and the Broadcom MASTERS® International, are the premier science and engineering competitions for middle school students around the US and the world.

For more information, visit the Broadcom Foundation and stay connected on TwitterFacebook and YouTube.

About Society for Science & the Public

Society for Science & the Public is dedicated to the achievement of young scientists in independent research and to public engagement in science. Established in 1921, the Society is a nonprofit whose vision is to promote the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement. Through its world-class competitions, including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the International Science and Engineering Fair, and the Broadcom MASTERS, and its award-winning magazine, Science News and Science News for Students, Society for Science & the Public is committed to inform, educate, and inspire. Learn more at www.societyforscience.org and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat (Society4Science).