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An Oxford Academy middle school student was named in August of 2012 as a finalist in the Broadcom Masters, a national competition that recognizes students for projects and achievements in regional science fairs.
Anna Lou, an eighth-grader at the Anaheim Union High School District's magnet school, is one of 30 middle school students nationally awarded all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in October for more than $40,000 in cash prizes.
Lou was chosen for her project "Artificial Intelligence," which she presented in this spring's Orange County Science and Engineering Fair. The 13-year-old created a computer program that simulates the strategy board game Blokus. She developed different strategies, creating a deep search algorithm, and simulated 6 million Blokus games, allowing her to write a Blokus A.I. program that defeated all nine human doctors and professors she tested.
"I was inspired by the success story that the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated the world chess champion in 1997 and wanted to create my own Blokus A.I. to have it win human players," she said. "I learned that it was actually very difficult for A.I. to defeat humans. It took me two years of research and learning."
Lou was among five Orange County students previously named semifinalists in the competition. She is the only local student named as a finalist.
The Broadcom Masters contest – the name stands for math, applied science, technology and engineering for rising stars – was created in 2010 by the Irvine-based Broadcom Foundation to reward and encourage sixth- through eighth-grade students to continue their studies in math and science. The competition aims to encourage innovation through independent research, scientific inquiry, hands-on learning and teamwork.
During the finals in Washington, D.C. Oct. 3, students will showcase their projects for the public and compete as a team in hands-on scientific activities.
"I feel very excited to be able to go to Washington D.C. and meet other finalists who have the same interests as me," Lou said.
The top prize is the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Award, a gift of Susan and Henry Samueli, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation. Other honors include $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place in addition to numerous experiential awards such as summer camps and a chance to attend the world's largest international high school science fair in May 2013.
"We are thrilled to bring these talented young scientists and engineers to Washington, D.C.," said Paula Golden, executive director of the Broadcom Foundation. "Experiences like the Broadcom Masters that focus on collaborative team building and project-based learning are powerful catalysts to keeping middle schoolers excited about applied math and science into high school, helping them make academic choices that open exciting new pathways to college and careers in science and engineering."