Last Friday, 16-year-old Kayla Garcia helped build a prosthetic arm out of a cardboard cylinder, plastic clasp, metal spring and duct tape.
Garcia, a sophomore, was part of a Liberty High School team that won first place at the 14th annual Oregon MESA Day. The competition, sponsored by Intel and the Lemelson Foundation and held at Portland State University, drew more than 350 students from 12 middle and high schools in the Portland metro area. Those students were challenged to address the global need for low-cost prosthetic devices.
Each team had to design a working prosthetic arm that was efficient and dextrous. For Garcia and her team, the design included a clasp that opens as the arm extends and closes as the arm contracts. They used it to pick up rulers and bottles, throw tennis balls and bean bags, and screw in bolts onto a piece of wood.
"I like to compete," she said. "It's fun and you get to experience teamwork."
Garcia said her team had prepared for two months before the competition, researching cheap prosthetic arm designs. Theirs cost just $6.50 to make.
The top middle and high school teams will represent Oregon at the National MESA USA competition next month in Portland.
Oregon MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) is based in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at PSU. The program celebrates student innovation and interest in science, technology, engineering and math, while encouraging underrepresented youth to pursue careers in those fields.