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“Into the Wind” Oregon MESA Teams Compete in National Competition
Author: Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science
Posted: July 5, 2012

Seattle, Washington – The Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) USA National Engineering Competition continues to showcase some of our country’s most innovative and diverse middle and high schools. These students are the “best of the best,” said David Coronado, Oregon MESA’s Executive Director. 

The National Engineering Design Competition is a project of MESA USA, of which Oregon is a member.  MESA is nationally recognized for its innovative and effective academic development program. MESA engages thousands of educationally disadvantaged students so they excel in math and science and graduate with math-based degrees.

Each year, MESA states hold regional competitions called MESA Days across the US.  In total, the program supports 56,000 K-16 students.  Each year, 49,000 middle and high school students take part in state competitions for a chance to compete on the national stage.

Hosted by Portland State University, Oregon MESA held its MESA Day on May 11, 2012.  Over 250 students competed at Oregon MESA’s annual event.  Students who wished to compete addressed the Wind Energy Challenge.  Using only a box fan, students created scale windmills and wind turbines that harnessed the wind to accomplish a variety of engineering feats. Students overall completed a technical paper and presentation in addition to testing their device in front of industry volunteers.  While the competition was fierce, Bin Chen and Karen Tiet of Franklin High School emerged as the high school team winners. Daniela Pedraza, Teralyn Putney, Carissa Alexander, and Nicole Van Schijndel of Poynter Middle School unseated the team from Ockley Green Middle School from their five year reign. The wins ensured these two teams would represent Oregon MESA at the national competition.

On the catwalk
“The competition [at nationals] was kind of stressful but when it was over I felt a sense of accomplishment, like I actually did something,” said Van Schijndel.  Hosted by Washington MESA and Boeing in Everett, WA, the competition filled three intense days, June 22-24, with competitions that included technical oral, paper, and poster presentations in addition to a performance to be remembered. 

Students had a rare opportunity to test their devices in the company of Boeing 737s being assembled.  “One airplane tail was within inches of the testing catwalk,” said Tamara DePue.  “It was amazing students could see real life engineering in action.”  Unfortunately, due to security reasons, no pictures were allowed during the competition, but the students left with lasting memories and visiting Boeing left a great impression. “My favorite part of the trip was the trip to the Boeing Museum of Flight.  I got to go inside a lot of different airplanes and see them up close. I might consider aeronautical engineering or being a pilot or something like that,” said Van Schijndel.  

Pathways
The Oregon students were amongst stiff competition. Overall, they did not emerge with medals around their neck, but they left with their heads high. “MESA engages students in experiences that show them potential pathways, exciting them about their future,” said Coronado. It also teaches them valuable life lessons, such as learning how to work as part of a team. “I learned about group work. Working in a team is hard because everyone has different ideas about what to do.  We had to work together to try everyone's ideas or decide which ones to try. You have to somehow get everyone to agree on which things to try.  It did make the windmill better because we had more ideas to choose from,” noted Van Schijndel. 

For the middle school students, they still have lots of time to look to next year’s competition. For Bin and Karen, they get to look towards a new chapter in their life. In the fall, Bin Chen will study Biochemistry at Oregon State University and Karen Tiet will study biology at Portland State University.