California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

CSULB MESA Program Students Honored for Winning National Engineering Design Contest

Published: September 15, 2010

A team of four students from Hudson International Studies Magnet School in Long Beach – coached to victory by CSULB faculty through the campus’ MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Schools Program – was recognized on the floor of the California State Assembly recently for its efforts in winning the National Engineering Design Competition at the University of Colorado, Denver in June.

The students – Kim Ventura, Reggie Lata, Rae Jillian Rivers and Breanna Nery – and their advisor, James Mills, were joined on the trip by Saba Yohannes-Reda, director of the CSULB MESA Schools Program, and Linda Tiggs-Taylor, oversight administrator and principal investigator of the program.

The win by the middle school students, who designed and developed a wind energy windmill device for the competition, culminated nearly a year of designing, creating, testing and contending.

“It was an amazing opportunity for our Long Beach Unified School District students and Cal State Long Beach to receive praise from California’s legislators for our work with the MESA Program,” said Tiggs-Taylor, who pointed out that many faculty members contribute their time and efforts into the year-round CSULB MESA Schools Program and helped the team of middle school students win the national title. “Funding support from the U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP program, the State of California MESA program, and the CSULB College of Engineering made the effort possible.”

The group was invited to the state capitol by Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, who along with the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, co-sponsored and organized the trip. Renewable energy companies enXco and Terra-Gen Power also contributed to the students’ travel costs.

In addition to breakfast with Torlakson, the students and advisors met with their local legislators and were presented with certificates of achievement on the assembly floor. They also had an opportunity to present their engineering project on the assembly and senate floors and enjoyed a tour of the capitol.

Founded in the mid-1970s, the CSULB MESA Schools Program serves about 40 schools. In fact, out of the 21 MESA programs that exist in California, CSULB’s serves the largest number of students, providing academic help to 1,702 middle and high school students in the Los Angeles County area in an effort to increase college enrollment and prepare the students for math, science, and engineering college degrees.

MESA Academic Coordinator David Braunstein, an engineer and now-retired high school chemistry teacher, leads the training of 25-30 CSULB engineering, math, science and education undergraduate and graduate students in coaching school site teachers and K-12 students on competitive hands-on projects. The CSULB students are paid tutors who work at the various MESA school sites and are the backbone of program implementation.

Braunstein plays a primary role in coordinating professional development offerings to K-12 teachers and working with CSULB faculty who provide technical support, the use of lab areas and assistance as judges at the annual MESA Day competitions held on campus. Sandra Cynar, Alvaro Monge, Roni Allen and Barbara Mack from the Computer Engineering and Computer Science Department; Chemical Engineering Department Chair Larry Jang; Tesfai Goitom, Tariq Shehab and Amir Aryan from the Civil Engineering and Construction Management Department; Jalal Torabzadeh, Parvin Shariat, Jerry Lockenour and Robert Green from the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department; and Laura Forrest and Ella Glen Burnett from the College of Education have been long-term faculty contributors to the success of the MESA program.

Middle School Students from CSULB MESA Program Honored

CSULB participants in the MESA Schools Program were, front row (l-r) Reggie Lata, Rae Jillian Rivera, Kim Ventura and Breanna Nery and back row (l-r) assembly member Tom Torlakson, James Mills (teacher), Linda Tiggs-Taylor, and Saba Yohannes-Reda.

Also involved in the project have been Djemel Sadi and Michael Fritz, both with CSULB’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Sadi, a network analyst, built and maintains the MESA computer lab on campus and Fritz builds component parts for the projects.

“This year’s focus on wind energy was thought to be appropriate due to the national interest in getting future generations of students prepared to contribute as innovative thinkers who will be able to find solutions to our most pressing energy challenges in the 21st century,” Tiggs-Taylor explained.

She said that MESA’s goal for the annual competition was “to offer students across the nation the opportunity to test good ideas and to build their confidence in doing so as our country’s future engineers and scientists.”

The Hudson Magnet School MESA team competed against other California teams in a series of local competitions across the state, which involved students from more than 300 schools. Winners of local events participated in regional competitions and then, having beaten out 14,000 other middle school competitors, the Hudson team moved on to compete for the state championship. There, one winning middle school and high school team were chosen to represent California in the USA MESA National Engineering Design Competition.

Tiggs-Taylor said CSULB was proud to have been a part of the efforts and months of designing and creating that led the California team to win first place against other wind energy champions from other states. “This was not an easy competition,” she said. “Rules were extremely strict and students were tested for their knowledge of math and physics principals behind their windmill structures.”

The MESA Center on campus includes the MESA Schools Program (MSP) and the MESA Engineering Program (MEP), two distinct programs based out of the CSULB College of Engineering. To provide the best academic enrichment model to the students, the MSP partners work with teachers, administrators, school district officials, and industry representatives.

–Isabella Zingale