Middle schoolers named as semifinalists in Broadcom Masters Science Competition

Middle schoolers named as semifinalists in Broadcom Masters Science Competition
Blake Caven of Julia Landon College Preparatory School

A.J. Horkan of San Jose Catholic School and Blake Caven of Julia Landon College Preparatory School have been named as semi-finalists in the nationwide Broadcom MASTERS Science Competition for Middle School students.

Both boys were winners at the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF) and qualified by being among the top 10 percent of the participants in their Society-affiliated science fair.

Semifinalists hailed from 250 middle schools in 37 states and represent 126 regional and state science fairs across the United States.

A.J. Horkan of San Jose Catholic School

A.J. Horkan of San Jose Catholic School

Horkan and Caven were two of only 41 students receiving semifinalist recognition from Florida, and were selected from more than 6,000 nominees and 2,343 applicants. A total of 300 semifinalists were selected after filling out an arduous application and receiving three independent readings and evaluations by distinguished scientists, engineers and educators.

It is the second year that Caven has competed in the Broadcom MASTERS competition. Last year he was among 30 finalists who attended a conference in Silicon Valley, California.

Caven’s project this year, “Exploring Machine Learning: The Effect of a Genetic Algorithm on Lacrosse Simulation Gameplay,” is an extension of his project last year, which was entitled “The Effect of Different Algorithms on Lacrosse Simulation Difficulty.” The project was created using SCRATCH, a programming language developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“While he was creating the first simulation, Blake became very curious about Artificial Intelligence and wondered if the computer could learn to play against his lacrosse algorithms,” said Caven’s mother, Rose. “This started extensive research into the field of machine learning and resulted in the selection of a genetic algorithm to run the new experiment. One immediate hurdle was that SCRATCH was no longer an option, so Blake taught himself a new programming language called PYTHON. He rebuilt the simulation in the new language. After many setbacks and two months of trial and error, he was able to complete the experiment and present his results. He was very motivated by the goal of having the opportunity to earn another nomination.”

This is Horkan’s first year competing and his project is titled “Torrefaction: Turning biomass into alternative energy.”

From the group of 300 semifinalists, 30 were selected to be finalists on Sept. 20. Unfortunately, neither Caven nor Horkan were on the list. Finalists will present their research and compete in hands-on challenges for top prizes including funds to attend a STEM summer camp, iPads, and the Samueli Prize of $25,000.


By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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