Going Ballistic

By Joshua Hunter Wentzel

Benson High School

Science fairs are a rush! You go in, you speak with judges, and the suspense kills you as you await judgment on what you hope is an interesting, new idea that has absorbed all of your time and energy for the past six months. Finally, the moment you have been waiting for: the awards ceremony. After what seems like hours, and is in reality only a short time, they reach your category. Applause engulfs the room as your name is called. This is my story, but it is definitely not finished yet. When my name was called in my regional science fair, I got an invitation to apply to join the BroadCom MASTERS (Math Applied Science Technology Engineering Rising Stars) program.

My science fair project was on air cannons. I was studying the effects of varying the barrel length, reservoir volume, and reservoir pressure on the muzzle velocity of a golf ball, trying to find the optimal combination. This project involved a heroic amount of loading, pumping, shooting, and measuring, which seemed to go on forever. And no, for the record, I did not shoot my eye out. I called my project “Going Ballistic.” After receiving my invitation, I began to labor through the application. I didn’t think I would win anything, but I thought the application process would be good practice. The application included many questions about my project: what, why, and how I did my research, as well as my goals. Weeks later I was stunned to learn that I was one of 300 semifinalists! I was thrilled to have won some school supplies for my school and for my awesome science teacher, Mrs. Archibald.

A few weeks later, I got a surprise phone call from the BroadCom MASTERS program, informing me that I had become one of thirty national finalists! As a finalist, I received on a one-week, all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Once there, I met some really interesting kids who were my fellow finalists and got to compete in mini-competitions that emphasized teamwork. These mini-competitions included building a miniature house to withstand a “hurricane” in the form of by a leaf blower. I also got to see Mt. Vernon (George Washington’s house), the Maryland Science Center, and many of the memorials. The coolest part was when all thirty of us got to visit the White House and meet the President of the United States, Barack Obama! He shook hands with each of us, asked us where we were from, and told us how proud he was of our accomplishments. We also got to visit the Rose Garden and the Oval Office! Later that week, at the awards ceremony, we had a fancy dinner where I met a Nobel Prize winner and an astronaut! After many awesome jokes by Drew, another finalist, I was awarded 2nd place in Mathematics.

If you are interested in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math), I suggest you enter a science fair. Who knows, maybe you will get a certain red invitation. I never expected to win anything, but I was passionate about my project and that passion took me all the way to Washington, D.C., proving that never know where you will go and who you will meet when you follow your passion.

This link takes you to the website describing the MASTERS program and student science programs.


This link contains a picture of all thirty of us in the Rose Garden with the President, I am on the upper right corner, the Oval Office is behind us and to the left.


This link takes you to the 2013 Highlights video, which gives you a sense of what an amazing experience it was.


About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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