April 18: More than 500 youths to compete at science, tech day

By Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – More than 500 middle and high school students from 10 area schools will compete at the annual Yakima Valley/Tri-Cities MESA Day at 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Participants, who have been recruited into the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program, will take on six challenges using real-world applications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

“Students compete on a team, visit and explore a college campus and interact with their peers from other schools, STEM professionals, professors and college students,” said Luis Alcazar, director of the MESA program. “More important, they have the opportunity to envision themselves as college students, professors and STEM professionals.”

Prosthetic arms, mobile apps

This year, students have constructed and will be testing prosthetic arms, mobile phone applications, balsawood gliders and egg drop devices. They will present models of the human brain and eye and deliver speeches on selected STEM topics. They will tour STEM labs on campus and do various STEM activities when they are not competing.

A student competes, left, while a judge looks on during a past MESA Day at WSU Tri-Cities.

The highlight is the national MESA competition, the prosthetic arm challenge, which incorporates concepts of life science and engineering. Students design and build an arm and test its ability to relocate household objects, toss bean bags into a target zone and fasten nuts on bolts. They submit a technical paper and present a poster.

The mobile app challenge has generated high interest among students. The have been introduced to various coding and design programs throughout the school year and then were encouraged to design a mobile application to solve a problem.

The highest scoring middle and high school teams from the prosthetic arm and mobile app challenges will advance to the state MESA Day contest May 9 at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.

Inspiring pursuit of STEM education

Keynote speakers for the Tri-Cities event will be:
• Paul Kelly, engineering support in waste facilities and analytical lab for Bechtel National Inc. (engineering and construction) at the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant.
• Elaine King, science and engineering education consultant at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the area MESA advisory board chair.

Since 1970, MESA has provided enriching educational opportunities that help build a pathway to college and careers in the STEM fields, filling an urgent need for qualified technical professionals. The Yakima Valley/Tri-Cities division is housed at WSU Tri-Cities. Learn more at http://www.tricity.wsu.edu/mesa or “Yakima Valley/Tri-Cities MESA” on Facebook.

Tech, medical, engineering partners

Community partners provide volunteers, including judges, and other support for MESA Day. Event co-sponsors are Battelle (science and technology development nonprofit), which operates PNNL for the U.S. Department of Energy, and Bechtel.

Judges include participants from PNNL, AREVA (nuclear technology company), Washington River Protection Solutions, Lampson International LLC (crane manufacturer), Kadlec (medical services), Desert Valley Eye Care, WSU Tri-Cities and other community volunteers.

“The MESA program has a rich legacy of preparing students to succeed in post-secondary education and STEM careers,” said Jeff Estes, director of STEM education at PNNL and a member of the state MESA board of directors. “PNNL and Battelle are committed to inspiring and preparing the next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators.”

“Bechtel’s gift continues our long history of support for the MESA program and is an investment in the next generation of STEM students,” said Peggy McCullough, project director for Bechtel’s waste treatment plant project.


Soo H. Park, WSU Tri-Cities MESA, 509-372-7385, soohyun.park@tricity.wsu.edu

Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities marketing and communications, 509-372-7319, jeffrey.dennison@tricity.wsu.edu