The 14-year-old Alaina Gassler is a Pennsylvania middle schooler that designed a system that uses cameras to display obstacles blocking a driver’s line of sight to make driving safer, and her projet earned her the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, the top award in the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition.
Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News congratulated Alaina, whose project has the potential to save lives by reducing blind spots. She added that with so many challenges in our world, Alaina and her fellow Broadcom MASTERS finalists make her optimistic, and she’s proud to lead an organization that inspired so many young people, especially girls, to continue to innovate.
And indeed Gassler wasn’t the only teenage girl that shined in the national contest. In fact, all five top awards were won by 14-year-old girls!
Their projects ranged from trapping invasive species, to improving water filtration systems and designing bricks that could be used to build on Mars. Yes, the five winners were chosen from the 30 finalists that were selected from 2,348 applicants in 47 states by a panel of distinguished scientists, engineers, and educators, and yes, the top five prizes were won by girls. To add to that, 60 percent of the finalists this year were female, and that’s truly an encouraging sign for the STEM field, in which women are still underrepresented.
Paula Golden, the President of the Broadcom Foundation congratulated all of the finalists, and she added that it’s exciting to see so many young women and engineers.
However, while the results of the competition are promising, research shows that it’s not initial interest and involvement in STEM that’s the problem, but it’s that women tend to slip out of the STEM career pipeline somewhere along the way. Even though, solid foundations in STEM and early achievements might encourage more girls to stick with their science and engineering pursuits.
These are the top prize winners of the competition:
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
Congratulations to all of them!