June 24, 2014
Danielle McNamara
 (510) 987-0230 

Press Release


Four Mendota Junior High students used science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to become national engineering champions.


The team of eighth graders took first place in the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) National Engineering Design Competition.


After months of designing, creating and testing a prosthetic arm, they successfully competed against hundreds of other students throughout California and MESA teams from nine other states. Fifteen-year-old Mario Ruiz and 14-year-olds Mario Castillo, Daniela De La O and Jeremiah Robinson competed June 19-22 at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.


Mendota students are served by the California State University Fresno Lyles College of Engineering MESA center. Mendota Junior High School’s population is 63 percent English language learners and 99 percent receive free or reduced lunch.


The competition required teams to develop a prosthetic device within a small budget to complete pre-defined tasks. The focus on bioengineering reflects MESA’s goal to involve students with the hottest science, engineering and technology areas. The project teaches students to understand design principles, implement problem-solving techniques and think like mechanical engineers. Students are judged in design efficiency, dexterity, object relocation, distance accuracy, technical display, technical paper and oral presentation.


The project is part of MESA Days, an annual showcase of students’ math and science know-how. Through MESA and MESA Day competitions, students can explore future careers in science, engineering and other technical fields.


MESA is one of the largest programs in California to support educationally disadvantaged students so they can graduate from college with STEM degrees. MESA provides academic support and enrichment to more than 18,000 K-12 students and more than 7,800 community college and 4-year college students each year. Most MESA students are economically disadvantaged, the first in their families to attend college, and attend underperforming schools.


For more information about the Mendota students, contact Fresno MESA Director Beatrice Prieto For more information about MESA, visit or on Twitter @MESASTEM.