SOUTH COUNTY — Local students from Gonzales and Soledad high schools as well as Main Street Middle School competed in a math, engineering and science competition March 2 at University of California, Santa Cruz, and came home with top prizes.
The competition featured more than 400 students who flew gliders, crushed bridges and programmed robots. According to UC Santa Cruz MESA Director Alexandria Leckliter, the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Day is a culminating event geared to showcase students’ math and science know-how.
Students worked in different categories, such as robotic wrestling and airplane flying, performed tasks with student-engineered prosthetic arms, participated in a Math Escape Room and other activities.
Main Street Middle School and Gonzales High School each came away with the second-place prize for the Math Escape Room in the middle and high school categories, respectively. The Escape Room is where students solve problems to piece together clues.
“In working on these projects, the academic focus is on following the engineering design process, as students collaborate with their engineering team to design, build, test and improve their projects,” said Main Street MESA Adviser Elva Garcia. “I am very proud of all the students who participated in the competition on March 2.”
In the prosthetic arm category, Soledad High School had a two-member team who brought home first place in performance and creativity for ninth- and 10th-grade students. The junior-and-senior Soledad team also took home first and third place in performance, along with first and second place ribbons for creativity.
In the robotics robo ride for high school, Soledad received first place, with Gonzales close behind earning second, while third place was a tie between the two schools.
Soledad High School’s ninth- and 10th-grade team received first place for its civil structures performance and creativity ribbons as well. The 11th- and 12th-grade team received second and third place medals in performance and took home a third-place ribbon for creativity, with the Gonzales team placing second.
“They are the problem solvers, critical thinkers and professionals who design, build, troubleshoot and test structures or systems to fulfill an objective,” said MESA adviser Capt. Pedro Gomez.
Soledad High School MESA Club President is Robert Guillen, who was part of the Soledad representation at UC Santa Cruz.
“We took a big group of students this year to Santa Cruz to compete in a variety of competitions, such as prosthetic arm, balsa wood bridges and robots,” Guillen said. “Everyone had fun, we brought back some medals, and as a whole group we won the High School Spirit Award.”
Soledad High School team once again performed well in the MESA machine ball launch, placing first in the ninth- and 10th-grade category as well as first place in the Wright Turn Glider contest. Soledad also took home a Spirit Award prize for the day.
Gonzales High School team took home first and second place for the MESA Think Tank in the ninth- and 10th-grade category. The school took third place in the upper class division on the Wright Turn Glider competition.
“MESA Day was a great success for Gonzales High School because we had a lot of teams place in the top three of their project competitions and win medals or ribbons,” Gonzales MESA Club President Dylan Cervantes said. “It was a chance for our students to build projects in the STEM areas they were passionate or had an interest in.”
Gonzales High School MESA Club is overseen by MESA Adviser Jacob Jun, who said the event was a chance for Gonzales students to showcase all the skills, teamwork and knowledge they’ve gained this year.
“Students are learning that there is a huge, giant world out there, and they can contribute in very important ways,” Jun said. “The MESA Club worked independently to plan this trip, gather the necessary materials and learn the rules of the competitions.”