From middle school settings to university study centers, MESA encourages the importance of honing real-world, problem-solving skills. 

Nothing exemplifies a problem-solving mind more than someone who sees and a need and creates a product or service. 

MESA’s Idea Accelerator, which was taught virtually even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, pushes students’ entrepreneurial minds. The project supplements the classroom and lab instruction students learn on their campuses with meaningful exposure to entrepreneurship and the world of tech startups. 

In the project’s third cycle, students were taught to design with empathy through the Human Centered-Design process. The approach tasks an individual or team to design products, services and systems that focus on the needs of the people who experience the problem.

“With empathy and a focus on human needs at its core, human-centered design aligns perfectly with MESA’s equity mission,” said MESA Executive Director Thomas Ahn. “Beyond serving as a source of diverse STEM talent for corporations and institutions, we believe it is critical for MESA to prepare our students to lead, to create, and to push boundaries.” 

Through 15 weeks of instruction, students chose coaches who guided them through the process, developed a team to help them execute and plan their prototype/idea, and finally presented their research and prototypes.

The winners’ ideas all focused on creating a more environmentally friendly world through technology. (Watch the pitch videos using links below):

  • Rider: A carpooling matchmaking service between students commuting to and from campus with a parking-space locator in an effort to reduce traffic congestion (Ralph Belleca, CSULA) First place
  • Green Points: Garbage can sensors scan disposed of items, categorizes them and give students points and eventually prizes for reducing the use of single-use disposibles (Saray Robles, San Diego State) Second place
  • Mobility: An app to optimize commuters’ public transit options and provide usage data to transportation companies (including capacity tracking to help front line workers social distance during pandemic by finding buses that are less crowded) (Lynne Tien, CSULA) Third place

Through Human-Centered Design, MESA students are creating and contributing to a more sustainable future. Congrats to our winners!