Guests checking into the posh Palomar Hotel in Washington, D.C., recently, might have been surprised to hear pounding footsteps, shrieks and laughter pouring out of a conference room late one evening. And they would have been even more surprised to see what was behind those doors: 30 of the nation’s top middle school science students, flushed and sweaty, playing dodgeball, riding piggyback on their parents and squirting one another with water bottles.The students were finalists in the first Broadcom Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars — or MASTERS — challenge. The three-day competition kicked off with an evening of icebreaking and team-building activities meant to help these students from throughout the United States and Puerto Rico get to know each other.
It may have looked like all fun and games. But the purpose of these activities was to get students comfortable working in teams to solve problems creatively and to accomplish a shared goal.What sets this new competition apart from a traditional science fair is its emphasis on teamwork. Finalists were judged not only on their individual science fair projects but also on how they demonstrated leadership and creative problem-solving while working as part of a team during a series of group challenges.