Hands-on learning and project-based learning have become buzz terms in the STEM education world recently. But MESA students have been using the math and science concepts they learn in the classroom to create engineering projects for decades. 


MESA Days — yearly hands-on engineering competitions — are a core piece of MESA’s 45 years of success. The competitions are grade-specific, continually updated and reinforce California State Board of Education math and science standards. MESA Days give educationally disadvantaged students exposure to STEM and STEM careers.


Students spend the good part of the school year designing, testing and competing in preliminary, regional and state competitions before the top middle and high school teams from California are named. Those state champs move on to the MESA National Engineering Design Competition this month. Teams of students create a prosthetic arm that will complete a series of tasks. 


This year’s high school state champs are 12th graders Azucena Castro and Jennifer Barrientos of Dominguez High School in Compton Unified School District. The middle school winners are eighth graders Alexa Habacon, Jade Lumada and Cohan Manzon from Hudson Middle School in Long Beach Unified School District.


The MESA National Engineering Design Competition will be held June 17-20 at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.