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How 80 prosthetic arms may lift Oregon science and tech sectors
Author: Suzanne Stevens, Portland Business Journal
Posted: May 16, 2013

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About 250 Portland-area middle and high school students have been working for months to develop an innovative prosthetic limb that could help children in developing countries who've lost arms to landmine accidents.

Split into about 80 teams, they will show off their results at Portland State University on Friday as part of Oregon MESA day.

An affiliate of the 43-year-old national MESA group — the name is an acronym for mathematics, engineering, science, achievement — Oregon MESA works to boost accessibility to those subjects for students from impoverished communities.

It's had amazing success, boasting a 100 percent high school graduation rate for participating students (compared to 50 percent for Portland Public Schools and about 35 percent for low-income and minority students), 92 percent of whom go on to college.

About 500 Portland students are participating in Oregon MESA this year, meeting at least once a week to share their interest in science and to work on this year's prosthetic arm challenge.

"We focus on invention education that takes students from problem solving to solutions," said Oregon MESA Executive Director David Coronado. "Students have to test their inventions, which are also tested by location professionals, giving students the chance to converse with real-world engineers. Students also have to look at the business side of the product to determine how it would play in the market."

Last year, student teams worked to develop a sustainable solar lighting system that could be used in developing countries.

Oregon MESA works closely with teachers and families on ways to encourage and support student interest in science and technology disciplines and has corporate support from Lightspeed Technologies, Luma Lighting, the Lemelson Foundation, and Intel, among others.

Interested in seeing what this year's teams came up with? Friday's Oregon MESA event is open to the public. It's happening in the PSU Ballroom between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.