More earth-like than any other planet in the solar system, Mars will almost certainly be inhabited by humans in the future. “Humans will absolutely be on Mars,” said NASA chief scientist Jim Green in USA TODAY. “And the first person to go is likely living today.”
NASA’s current goal is to send someone to the red planet by 2040. No wonder it captured the imaginations of a number of middle school students for the 10thannual Broadcom MASTERS science competition sponsored by the Broadcom Foundation and Society for Science & the Public.
This year’s winner of the Marconi / Samueli Prize for Innovation, made possible by Henry Samueli’s donation of his 2012 Marconi Prize, is 14-year old Sidor Clare. Clare developed bricks that could one day be used to build on Mars. Anticipating that transporting materials to Mars will be time consuming and difficult, Clare created a building material that could be made with resources available on Mars and would withstand the harsh environmental conditions on the planet.
Clare’s project, Bound and Bricked, draws on chemistry, materials science and environmental science to prototype and test different bricks, eventually developing a material that can withstand more pressure than concrete. Clare represents a trend in innovators from middle school through graduate school – creative thinkers who bring down the barriers between disciplines in science and engineering. These innovators are using multi-disciplinary approaches to change the world.
Broadcom Foundation President, Paula Golden, observes that women seem to be particularly good at cross-disciplinary thinking. Women took home all five of the top prizes in this year’s competition, reflecting a trend that has been building for the last several years.
“Many of the young women who participate in the MASTERS may start with an interest in science, such as biology, astronomy or chemistry and then begin to apply engineering principles and techniques, coding and prototype development to their research and science fair projects,” Golden tells us. “Women are increasingly disposed to breaking down barriers and driving confluences.”
In addition to their projects that account for 20% of their scores, finalists are judged on their performance in STEM-related competitions ranging from coding with Raspberry Pi to engineering a delivery system that would keep insulin for Hurricane Dorian survivors viable for weeks. Clare and other awardees showed extraordinary leadership, collaborative and technical talent in these challenges, along with exceptional creative thinking.
The Broadcom MASTERS seeks to give students the confidence and critical thinking, collaboration and communications skills that they will need to thrive in the 21stcentury.
Based on the work that Clare and others are doing, it’s possible that the first person to set foot on Mars may just be a Broadcom MASTER.