The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program’s Regional MESA Day competition took place on the UCSB campus on April 21, 2018. The top teams from the Preliminary MESA Day (called Science and Technology MESA Day) competitions at UCSB, UC Santa Cruz and California State University, Fresno all competed at the Regional MESA Day competition at UCSB.

The MESA USA National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) is the only competition that has a State Championship, and the MESA Arduino STEM Solutions competition is the MESA NEDC for 2017-2020. For this competition, students had to speak with members of their local community to determine a challenge they were facing and develop a solution to solve the problem. Our Isbell Middle School team discovered that overfilling trashcans on the street were a problem for their community, so they brainstormed ideas and developed the “SmartCan”. They created the SmartCan to measure a pre-determined load and then alert the client, via a red LED light, when the can had to be emptied. The load weight can be adjusted, so that people with injuries who could not lift as heavy a trash bag, would have the SmartCan alert them when the load was within a weight they could lift. Their SmartCan was developed with some key aspects in mind, such as efficiency and low cost.

Our SmartCan team – 7th Graders Samantha Ivanez and Brandon Arana – from Isbell Middle School took first place and will be competing against the top teams from all the MESA Centers in California at the State Championship on Saturday, May 12 at UC Irvine. We are very proud of our team and below is a quote from their MESA Advisor who works closely with them throughout the academic year.

"It's such a privilege to mentor students like Samantha Ivanez and Brandon Arana. Their enthusiasm is evident in every aspect of their MESA Arduino STEM Solutions project as well as their willingness to share their human centered design solution with school staff and students. Congratulations on a job well done!"

Winners at the State competition will then head to the National Championship in Philadelphia, PA in June 2018.

Isbell Middle School, 7th Grade Team Isbell Middle School, 7th Grade Team – SmartCan Project. Pictured from left to right: Juanita Muñiz-Torres, Deputy Director of Program Operations, MESA California Statewide Office; Brandon Arana, Isbell Middle School MESA Student; Mary Ramsey, University Relations and Recruiting Manager, Lockheed Martin, Samantha Ivanez, Isbell Middle School MESA Student; and Alex Berlanga, UCSB MESA Undergraduate Student. Not pictured: UCSB MESA Advisors at Isbell Middle School - Cari Leidig, Mathematics & Science Teacher and Diana Georghiou, Science Teacher.
In all, the experience I had was rich with learning. I think the NDEC taught me subjects that are not really touched on in our everyday lives. The project also taught us how to publicly speak, a task that at first made me feel very uncomfortable and now I am very confident speaking in front of teachers and other students. I would recommend this project for anyone thirsty for knowledge or wants a challenge.
-Brandon Arana, 7th grade, Isbell Middle School

Overall, the experience I had with the NEDC MESA project was life changing. I learned and discovered new skills, from public speaking to implementing the engineering design process. In the future, I know that these skills will open more opportunities to me in the real world. The MESA program has also opened my mind to new ideas, like designing and building a mechanical prototype to help others. MESA is a program that allows ordinary kids to have extraordinary experiences, and I know that my MESA family will continue to give me support throughout my educational pathway.
-Samantha Ivanez, 7th grade, Isbell Middle School
Image of team members Brandon Arana and Samantha Ivanez