When the 10th annual Broadcom MASTERS national competition takes place virtually next month, there will be only one student representing New Jersey: Charlotte Michaluk.
Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) is designed to inspire young scientists, innovators and engineers, according to the competition. The middle school competition tests critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration of the top students across the nation.
Charlotte, a 14-year-old student and now freshman at Hopewell Valley Central High School, is one of the top 30 finalists who will compete in the national competition from Oct. 16-21.
“I was in complete disbelief and so excited when I got the call. It was such an amazing surprise,” she said. “I cannot wait to meet everyone virtually. I think this is really significant right now, because we have to look to scientists and engineers while in the midst of a pandemic.”
Charlotte was selected as one of the 30 out of a pool of 300 finalists. She was previously named one of the top 300 competitors who qualified for the competition when she was an eighth grader at Timberlane Middle School.
According to competition information, each of the 30 finalists will be judged on their own science research project and participate in online team challenges.
Charlotte’s research project focuses on addressing biofouling which occurs on ship hulls, buoys and underwater pipes. Biofouling is invasive aquatic growth from algae, bacteria and barnacles on the bottom of ships or underwater structures.
“I developed a new hull coating using shortfin mako shark skin denticles (similar to scales). This coating contributes to a better world by decreasing the frictional drag of ship hulls in the water, which contributes to 90% of our cargo fuel ship consumption,” she said. “It also slows invasive species transport which is great for the environment and the economy.”
Charlotte explained that the ship has to burn more fuel because of the additional friction on the hull.
“I use a biological model to test out different iterations of the coating and also do online modeling and use one-way ANOVA (statistical analysis) to verify results,” she said. “The main goal of the coating is for it to be a more efficient way for cargo ships to travel and have them be more environmental.”
The project is seen by Charlotte as part of a lifetime of work involving STEM, which she has been taking engineering classes in since she was in fourth grade.
“I got the idea for the project last year while stream team sampling in my community, where I saw the invasive species, and also as a certified SCUBA diver I observed animals in their natural habit underwater,” she said. “All of that accumulated to this idea.”
Her passion for science, engineering, ocean, sailing and environment were all an inspiration for the research project.
“I think it is so important for the environment and humans that we do research like this, to make sure we keep together the bond of the human and nature relationship for years to come,” Charlotte added. “I hope for younger scientists they get inspiration to do their own research project and hope people realize there are issues such as biofouling. I do not think people realize it is such an issue.”
Innovation in science and engineering for the environment seems to be a family passion, as Charlotte joins her older sister Sonja Michaluk, who graduated from HVCHS, in achieving in the fields of science and national competitions.
Sonja earlier this year was named a top 40 finalist in the 79th Regeneron Science Talent Search competition, which is the nation’s oldest science and math competition for high school seniors, according to the competition.
“My sister and I both share a passion for the environment in science and engineering. We even built a lab together in our basement,” Charlotte said.
She wants to go the science and engineering career route as her life and education continues, whether it be human factors design or other various forms of engineering.
“My family jokes that I leave a trail of crafting materials and wood shavings, because I just love making things out of refurbished materials and wood carving,” she said. “I once made my own pair of shoes out of old bicycle inner tubes.”