MENDOTA — Four eighth grade students at Mendota Junior High won a national engineering competition after months of designing, creating and testing a prosthetic arm.
Their project was recognized at the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) National Engineering Design Competition in Portland, where they competed against hundreds of students throughout California and nine other states. The winning students are 15-year-old Mario Ruiz and 14-year-olds Mario Castillo, Daniela De La O and Jeremiah Robinson.
The students are part of the MESA program at Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering. MESA encourages students — especially those from underserved populations — to learn in new and exciting ways that will prepare them to attend four-year colleges and universities.
“The MESA program prepares students to think like an engineer—explore, design, create and make it better,” said Beatrice Prieto, director of Fresno State’s MESA program. “That is what these Mendota students did throughout the school year to prepare for the national competition. They faced many challenges but never lost their concentration and always had a positive attitude. Their MESA advisor, Dave Sackrison, was a great role model who encouraged them throughout the competition.”
The competition required teams to develop a prosthetic device within a small budget to complete pre-defined tasks. Students were judged in design efficiency, dexterity, object relocation, distance accuracy, technical display, technical paper and oral presentation.
“The MESA program provides students a great opportunity to experience complex learning in engineering, science and mathematics via hands-on activities at their schools,” said Dr. Ram Nunna, dean of the Lyles College. “These experiences provide the students a foundation to pursue majors such as engineering when they enroll in college.”
MESA provides academic support and enrichment to more than 18,000 K-12 students and more than 7,800 college and university students each year. Most MESA students are economically disadvantaged, the first in their families to attend college and attend underperforming schools.