July 6, 2016
Danielle McNamara

Eight California MESA students claimed second place in the National Engineering Design Competition. 


Both the middle and high school California state champion teams beat out teams from nine other states in building the best code-powered prosthetic arm. The championship was held June 22-25 in Ogden, Utah.


California’s middle school team from Los Banos Junior High School are eighth graders Daniel Baerwaldt, Ernesto Castro and seventh graders Carol Garcia and Erick Lara.


The high school team representing California from Costa Mesa High School is made up of 11 graders Sarah Catania and Nancy Le and 12th graders Sylvia Catania and Keiser Ruiz.


Students put in countless hours during school and on the weekends to design, test, create and compete a functional robotic prosthetic arm on a budget under $40. This type of hands-on learning let’s students become creators, teammates and leaders in their schools and communities. Student teams have to perform several tasks with the arm, give an oral presentation and submit a complete R&D report. The arm is powered by a programmed coding board. 


This competition bridges classroom learning with real world application and encourages students to think beyond what they learn in physics, calculus or geometry. These experiences are particularly poignant for MESA students they all attend low-performing schools, come from low socio-economic background and are typically the first in their families to attend college.


Los Banos Junior High is 80 percent Latino, 20 percent are English language learners and 80 percent of students receive free and reduced meals. Costa Mesa High School is 65 percent Latino and 72 percent of students receive free and reduced meals.