This Saturday, a MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) competition was held virtually, hosted by UC Irvine. Sophia Catania, Lucero Islas, and Lena Nguyen won 1st in 4 of 5 categories, including overall of the National Engineering Design Competition and Caidlyn Lowry won 1st place for “Creativity and Engineering Design” and “Strength-to-Weight Ratio” sections of the Civil Engineering Competition.

MESA is a national program started in 1970 that provides hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education for underrepresented grades K-12 and on college campuses as well, culminating in local and regional competitions for middle schoolers and even state and national levels for high schoolers.

This year, due to COVID-19, the competitions were held virtually, with many students preparing weeks in advance for the fated day. From building bridges made to withstand dozens of pounds of weight to learning how to code, producing videos to completing virtual lessons, they managed to complete all aspects of their competitions despite their already challenging academic workload.

Caidlyn Lowry placed 1st in the creativity and strength-to-weight ratio of the 9th and 10th grade division of the Civil Engineering competition, which requires students to build a bridge using only glue and balsa wood sticks. To test its strength, a special machine is used to place pressure on the bridge until it breaks.

Sophia Catania, Lucero Islas, and Lena Nguyen won 1st place in four of five categories and 3rd in another category for their performance in the National Engineering Design Competition.

NEDC consists of four components: a Design Brief which is essentially a report on their prototype, a poster visually displaying the components of their prototype, a prototype pitch video similar to a Shark-Tank style presentation detailing their device and market, and a live technical presentation and interview, which goes in depth about the technical aspects of their prototype, including the hardware and testing process. (You can watch the prototype pitch video here). This year’s emphasis was on “designing for inequity”.

“MESA Day was an amazing experience where we got to learn so much about accessibility to healthcare in both our country and the world, and the technical aspect of microcontrollers, sensors, and coding,” says Sophia Catania. “Designing for equity was a challenge at first, but I'm proud to see how our device could potentially impact underrepresented communities in real life. I’m really excited for MESA regionals and what will come next with MonitorMe!”

Sophia Catania and Lucero Islas also won the Stem on the Sidelines Competition for the second year in a row alongside their teammate Liz Gama which encourages students to participate in STEM competitions, building a football launcher prototype that aims towards moving targets.

Additional competitions included Coding Solutions: coding challenges in the Python-3 language, as well as MESA Tank, a Shark-Tank inspired competition to pitch future MESA competitions.

Last Saturday, March 6th, the middle school MESA teams also competed in a virtual competition hosted by UC Irvine as well. To read more about it, please visit this article:

In summary, Aubrey Spallone, Audrey Nguyenhuu, Kayla Stanley, and Thi Nguyen won all five parts, including the overall, of the middle school division National Engineering Design Competition.  Isabella Im won the strength to weight ratio of the Stick Together competition with Felix Tiquia and King James Baril coming in 2nd.  Matamatagi Uiagalelei, Jesus Villanueva, & Axel Mancilla and Caden Lo & William Morales tied for first place in the MESA Tank competition with Damian Martinez coming in third. Christopher Giraud came in third place for the Scratch it Up Coding competition. Those who placed 1st will also move onto regional competitions in early April.

Unlike high school MESA, which is a club extracurricular activity, middle school MESA is an elective which you can choose from your course selection sheet. Mr. Nguyen, a middle school science teacher, is in charge of both divisions.

If you’re interested in building things, learning more about engineering, and doing hands-on activities, you should check the MESA program out!