- Joining him are three Indian Americans among top winners in the nation's premier science and engineering competition for middle schoolers.
Akilan Sankaran, 14, of Albuquerque, New Mexico has 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. The Indian American teen is the first student with a math project in the competition’s 11-year history to take home the Samueli Foundation Prize.
Joining Sankaran are three Indian American teens, all girls, who won top honors for their projects on issues ranging from wildfires to obesity to water and light pollution. Camellia Sharma, 14, Henrico, Virginia, won the $10,000 DoD STEM Talent Award for her 3D-printed aerial drone/boat that can fly to a spot, land on the water and take underwater photos. Prisha Shroff, 14, Chandler, Arizona, won the $10,000 Lemelson Award for Invention for an AI-based wildfire prevention system that uses satellite and meteorological data to identify fire-prone locations and deploy drones there. Ryka C. Chopra, 13, Fremont, California, won the $10,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Advancement for her project where she geocoded the locations of fast-food restaurants to see if they are built near populations of obese people, perhaps contributing to the obesity cycle.
Winners were chosen from the 30 finalists selected from 1,841 applicants from 48 states, Washington, D.C. and three U.S. territories, and were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, engineers and educators. Each finalist’s school will receive $1,000 from the Broadcom MASTERS program to benefit their STEM initiatives.
The competition took place virtually to keep the finalists, where each of the 30 finalists participated in online team challenges in addition to being judged on their science research projects. The challenges leveraged project-based learning and tested their mastery of 21st Century skills of critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration in each of the STEM areas. They analyzed biodiversity in their local communities, designed clinical trials, constructed gliders and developed functional programs using Raspberry Pis.
“Congratulations to all our Broadcom MASTERS winners,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the Society for Science and Publisher of Science News. “The young people we are celebrating today are working to solve the world’s most intractable problems. The Broadcom MASTERS finalists serve as an inspiration to us all, and I know they will all go on to find immense success on their STEM journey.”
Sankaran wrote a computer program that can calculate “highly divisible numbers,” sometimes called antiprime numbers, that are over 1,000 digits long, according to the competition press release. He created a new class of functions — the smooth class — to measure a number’s divisibility. Broadcom MASTERS, says the program “has the potential capacity to speed up and optimize the performance of software and apps, such as Shazam.
Sankaran told KRQE news outlet that he was “in total bliss” when they announced him as the winner. “It was like the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me.”
He told the Albuquerque Journal that he started working on the project for a science fair in December and was nominated to compete in the Broadcom MASTERS after winning the state science fair competition in mathematical sciences. “It’s been really surreal,” he said. “I’ve never done a science fair before, so this was a really good experience and I’d love to do it again.”
The now ninth-grader at Albuquerque Academy hopes to pursue a career as an astrophysicist. Aside from mathematics, he plays the piano and enjoys running.
In addition to the top prizes, the Broadcom Foundation and the Society also announced the winner of the $5,000 Broadcom Coding with Commitment Award, first and second place winners in each of the STEM categories of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. First-place winners were awarded $3,500 and second place winners received $2,500.
Indian American winners include:
Science Award: First place: Atreya Manaswi, Finding the Best Novel, Safe, and Organic Treatment to Attract Small Hive Beetles and Improve Honey Bee Strength (Year 2 Study)
Technology Award: First place: Ansh Sehgal, Bike to Bike System for Visually Impaired
Second place: Praneel Anil Shah, Utilizing a Bioelectrochemical System with Phototrophic Bacteria to Generate Clean Water and Electricity
Engineering Award: First place: Avi Patel, Bike to Bike System for Visually Impaired
Mathematics Award: Second place: Sohan Govindaraju, A Novel Mathematical Approach to Predict the Spread of a Wildfire Using the SIR based Model
Team Award: White Team: Ryka C. Chopra, Atreya Manaswi, Avi Patel, Samhita Pokkunuri and Elizabeth Reilly
Broadcom Leadership Award:
Prisha Shroff, AI-based Wildfire Prevention System