Giving: Spring 2012
Author: Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: May 31, 2012

Funding inventive solutions

The Lemelson Foundation provides support for budding scientists in Oregon.

CHALLENGE middle and high school students to design a prosthetic arm and who knows what their future could hold. 

Oregon MESA—Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement—hopes it’s a future that includes college and a career in science and engineering.

Based at Portland State, Oregon MESA is part of a national organization that teaches hands-on skills through real-world projects in after-school programs. The goal is to help create the next generation of innovators.

Thanks to a new $226,000 grant from the Portland-based Lemelson Foundation, underserved middle and high school students have an opportunity to connect with university faculty who foster excitement about innovation.

PSU’s program is unique in the country in its focus on invention education to solve problems in developing countries. Part of The Lemelson Foundation grant will be used to create a curriculum guided by Oregon MESA’s invention emphasis and disseminate it to the other eight MESA programs throughout the United States. 

Oregon MESA faculty and students worked with D-Rev, a nonprofit technology incubator, to develop a low-cost prosthetic arm that could be used in places such as Afghanistan, where civilians are often injured by land mines. MESA students across the U.S. will now design prosthetic arms using the curriculum.

STUDENTS involved in Oregon MESA focus on “human-centered design” to solve problems for people in developing countries such as water filtration and solar cooking. They will soon address the problem of infant mortality. 

“We’re excited by our work with Oregon MESA and how they connect to our mission to support inventors and invention-based enterprises that improve lives in the U.S. and developing countries,” says Dorothy Lemelson, president and board chair of The Lemelson Foundation. “The students get to apply their math, engineering, and science concepts in new ways to develop solutions to today’s problems.”

The Lemelson Foundation, established by inventor Jerome Lemelson, has provided financial support to Oregon MESA for more than six years, including $192,000 over the past three years.

To learn more about Oregon MESA, visit or contact Pamela Gesme Miller at 503-725-2865 or


Photos: More than 250 Oregon middle and high school students design and build projects on the Portland State campus, competing against each other, during MESA Day—Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Day. The Lemelson Foundation recently awarded a $226,000 grant to Oregon MESA. Photos by Steve Dipaola.