Science Blast: Young Engineers at Work

Young challengers take a deep dive into engineering

 Broadcom MASTERS finalists had to create remotely-operated vehicles that performed a underwater task

Broadcom ROV in waterBroadcom MASTERS finalists on the Silver Team test a remotely-operated vehicle they designed and built to collect sediment from a river bottom.  LINDA DOANE/SSP

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sometimes a job is too dirty, dangerous or downright impossible for a human to tackle. That’s often when engineers build a machine to take on the task. Finalists at this year’s Broadcom MASTERS competition were presented with just such a challenge. They had to design and build a small remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) that could dive to a river bottom and bring back a sample of the sediment. Adding to the challenge, they had only a few short hours to do it.

Broadcom MASTERS brings together 30 middle-school finalists each year for a special competition. (MASTERS stands for Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars.) The program was created by Society for Science & the Public, which publishes Science News for Students. Broadcom Foundation, based in Irvine, Calif., sponsors the event. The top winner, this year, took home an educational award valued at $25,000. Others took home smaller, but still substantial, prizes.

Broadcom ROV green team
After surveying the available materials, the Green Team starts designing its ROV.
Linda Doane/SSP

In contrast to most science competitions, roughly three-quarters of a finalist’s score at this event comes from how well he or she innovates and works within a team. Only about one-fourth of a finalist’s total score reflects the science-fair project that qualified each for the competition (and which they presented to judges earlier in the week).

This year, each of the six teams of finalists faced stiff challenges. They built electronic circuits that lit up when a rolling ball completed the circuit. They devised ways to filter tainted water “on Mars.” But their final and most demanding test was creating a sediment-collecting ROV.

The task at hand

Engineering is a process that uses math, science and practical knowledge to invent, design, build and improve structures, machines, materials and more. This year’s toughest challenge for Broadcom MASTERS finalists required them to tap into their inner engineers.

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