How Broadcom MASTERS opened doors for student from New Mexico | Student Science

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How Broadcom MASTERS opened doors for student from New Mexico

4:30AM, April 29, 2015
Doing Science

Makayla Gates in front of her display board at Broadcom MASTERS 2014.

By Laura Shaposhnikova

Makayla Gates came to Washington, DC for the first time in her life last year. She flew into the city for Broadcom MASTERS 2014, where she presented her project entitled Acoustic Levitation: The Wave of the Future.

It's been a whirlwind of a year for Makayla since Broadcom MASTERS. Read on to learn more! 

How did you initially become involved in science?

I've always loved science and math. My parents have always encouraged me to do whatever I set my mind to, even if it seems like it might be too hard or "above my age level." 

They've never set limits on what I could attempt and never allowed anyone else to do so, which is what has gotten me where I am today.  They helped me know that failures are only learning experiences, providing we learn from them, that is!  It takes a great deal of work and patience to accomplish anything worth accomplishing. 

We live on the bosque right next to the Rio Grande and go exploring for animals, plants, insects, minerals, etc.  We've built bat and bird houses and a weather station, planted gardens and trees, found partial skeletons and signs of beaver, porcupine, and other wildlife, observed a beaver dam in back of our house, and dug up an old yellow jacket nest to dissect. 

We are in the process of creating a new kind of aquaponics filtration system for a man-made wetlands area we are making on our property. Every day here is a new scientific adventure! Many of our friends have interesting hobbies where we get to help and learn, such as grape picking for a winery (we have a variety of grape vines of different species ourselves), hunting and identifying edible mushrooms on Santa Clara Peak and Red River, flint knapping, pottery, and bee keeping.

My science projects have varied from making a chicken mummy in 3rd grade, to improving a formula for measuring femurs from humans to determine height for forensic identification in 4th grade, to extracting and trying to fingerprint banana DNA to determine if all have a common ancestor, in 5th grade, and finally to my acoustic levitation project to clean photovoltaic cells, started in 6th grade.

What was your most memorable moment as a 2014 Broadcom MASTERS finalist?

My most memorable moment as a 2014 Broadcom MASTERS finalist, aside from meeting the President and touring the White House, is when my mom and I finally landed in Washington D.C. and saw the mass numbers of people (more than in our whole village) in one airport. 

Then as we rode to the hotel, the buildings seemed immense and the part of the Potomac River that could be seen has more water than in the whole Rio Grande. On the way we saw the lighted memorials and other historic buildings against the night sky and bright full moon in the back drop. The weirdest thing was not being able to see forever like I had always been able to in New Mexico. It was amazing! I wish everyone could have the experience of a lifetime like I did.  

Can you provide a short description of your research project?  

Basically, I, with my dad's crash course in electronics and soldering, built an acoustic levitator and used different frequencies of transducers and sizes of sand particles to determine which frequency would levitate the greatest range of particles for possible acoustic cleaning of photovoltaic cells.

What have you been up to since Broadcom MASTERS? 

I have continued with my research project and won first place in my category (Physics) and tied for Best of Show at the high school. I loved my trip to Washington D.C. and as the only representative from NM in 2014, have been presenting in other venues. 

My most recent was at the University of New Mexico/Valencia Campus as a guest speaker for the NM MESA Winter Youth Leadership Summit. I have gotten a letter of commendation from New Mexico Representative Martin Heinrich and had a personal invitation and luncheon with NM Governor Susana Martinez, the first female Hispanic governor of New Mexico. I have been invited by both the Governor and Lieutenant Gov. John Sanchez for a personal tour of the Round House in Santa Fe. I was invited to become a Jr. Docent at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science for this summer, 2015, and also nominated for participation in the TechTrek program, a STEM program for 7th grade girls, being held at New Mexico Highlands University in July.

I am presently working on a project about sea turtle deaths and a new way to clean up oil spills in salt water. Unrelated to science, my mom and I have merged some of our musical talents, mine on harp and hers on classical guitar, and are playing modern and classical duets for the public in our "spare" time.  

How has participating in Broadcom MASTERS affected you?

Being from a small village in New Mexico, it has opened my eyes to the rest of the world and built my confidence in myself and what one small voice or idea can accomplish.  I met 29 awesome kids from all over the United States, and they all had an interest in science, math, and trivia just like I do.  

Science and math are universal languages that can be shared wherever you go. Also it has given me some once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as meeting the President and other dignitaries, and traveling outside of my state and opened up so many opportunities that I may otherwise not have had. I'm now known at school as "the girl who met the President," and have been referred to by UNM, teachers, school administrators, and other adults as "OUR Broadcom MASTERS."

They had a "Makayla Day" at school that was really cool. If I was from a large city, maybe none of this would have happened, but it's a big thing here and shows other "small-town" kids that they can matter too. Most importantly. I am being listened to now, almost as a spokesperson, for promoting science and math education in the schools, making people aware of the need for improving educational opportunities, and encouraging minorities and girls especially, to pursue their goals in math and science no matter what kind of opposition they get. 

As the former Youth Representative for the Cherokee Southwest Township in Albuquerque, a position I held for many years, I tried to spread community awareness of the Cherokee culture.  As a Broadcom MASTERS alumnus, I feel I am doing the same for STEM careers and Broadcom MASTERS. It has certainly improved my public speaking abilities!

Do you have any advice for other young aspiring scientists? 

Believe in yourselves and never give up! Don't let anyone put limits on you and don't you put them on yourself. If I can do it, so can you.  

Learn more about Broadcom MASTERS here!

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