CSUEB MESA Teams Thrive in Virtual Competition

  • BY Cal State East Bay
  • May 6, 2021

Cal State East Bay’s popular MESA College Prep Program was upended when the pandemic hit, forcing hands-on learning to quickly bend and mold into distance learning.  

“The need to shift to a virtual model afforded us the opportunity to rethink how we approach our program, while giving us new ways to engage with MESA participants, families, and advisors,” said the MESA Director, Janiene Langford. “What we learned was that MESA students were ready for the challenge this past year presented — they were looking for ways to learn new disciplines, challenge themselves, socialize and have fun, regardless of if it was in person or virtual.”

According to Langford, many students were pleasantly surprised because working virtually allowed them to meet at any time. Work was always accessible and it also gave them a way to connect with classmates despite the pandemic. 

Cal State East Bay’s Institute for STEM Education hosted virtual MESA week in March. From there,63 students moved on to the Northern California Regional Competition, with seven teams placing first, six teams placing second and three teams placing third. For the National Engineering Design Challenge, both teams who moved on from the Northern Region to compete at the State Competition came from the Cal State East Bay MESA Center. 

Langford said this is an incredible accomplishment. 

“The two teams - Team Bloo Box (middle school) and Team Terra Flight (high school)  had to identify an individual or group who experiences some type of inequity and, using a microprocessor, create a solution,” she said. “Teams are required to create a prototype and pitch its operations, write a design brief, develop a poster outlining their project, and give a technical presentation followed by a judging interview. In short, it is an intense competition that requires a lot of research, innovation, creativity, and technical skills.”

Supported by MESA advisors Seth Cordes and Susan Caguyong from Orchard Park Middle School in Antioch, Team Bloo Box created a device that would help students with ADHD and others focus on school work, by giving them a reward system for completing tasks. At the State Level, they placed first in the Design Brief and Prototype Pitch and second in the Poster and Technical Presentation and Interview, placing second overall. 

Supported by MESA advisors Michele Kerr and Blake Chobanian from John F. Kennedy High School in Fremont, Team Terra Flight created a drone that would challenge large agricultural corporations in India who are dominating the market and impoverishing many families, by providing small farmers with an affordable and efficient solution to plant and track crops. At the state level, they placed first in the Design Brief and Technical Presentation and Interview, second in the Prototype Pitch, and third in the Poster, placing second overall. 

Both teams will be submitting their work for publication in the “Journal of Emerging Investigators,” with support from the Cal State East Bay MESA Center's staff. 

Cal State East Bay’s MESA College Prep Program, which serves 30 middle and high school teachers and approximately 600 students across Alameda and Contra Costa counties is made possible with support from the Chevron Richmond Refinery and the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation.

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