Years of hands-on learning paid off for Dominguez High School graduates Azucena Castro and Jennifer Barrientos when they were named the 2015 MESA USA National Engineering Design Challenge champions.


On June 17-20, Azucena and Jennifer represented California in the high school division at the national finals held in Ogden, Utah where they competed against teams from nine other MESA states. The challenge required them to build a prosthetic arm that was tested in three tasks -Distance Accuracy, Object Relocation, and Dexterity- all while staying under a budget of $40. In addition to device performance, they wrote a technical paper, created an academic poster, and prepared an oral presentation.


Under the guidance of their MESA advisor, Mr. Emmanuel Ikeokonta, the young ladies had to win at preliminary, regional, and state competitions in California to advance to Utah. This was the first time that Dominguez High School reached this level, and is the first high school in Compton Unified School District to win the national championship.


The prosthetic arm challenge is a part of MESA Days — yearly hands-on engineering competitions that 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.


For Azucena and Jennifer, who have been a part of the UC Irvine MESA program since elementary school, MESA and its mission have paid off. Azucena is continuing her education at UC Berkeley studying Computer Science this fall, while Jennifer has committed to UC Irvine and will be studying Biomedical Engineering.