MESA Prosthetics Challenge
About 250 middle and high school students from the Tri-Cities and Yakima Valley compete against each other for the top honors in a unique challenge today - making better prosthetic arms with basic materials.
These students are from the mathematics, engineering, and science achievement programs or MESA. The programs provide science and math opportunities to under-respresented communities in our area.
About 60 teams of four students each took part at WSU Tri-Cities. They researched, built and developed the prosthetic arms with wood, nails, rubber bands, and even duct tape - to learn about the power of good design.
The kids come from Pasco, Sunnyside, Granger, Toppenish, and Mount Adams School Districts.
Fourteen-year-old Cynthia Ramirez is from Ochoa Middle School. She says it's the first time she and her team have experienced this kind of challenge.
"We were nervous, we didn't know what was going to happen and we just tried to do our best," said Cynthia.
More than 30 students from her school designed prosthetic arms, which took about three weeks, but only two teams of four were selected based on testing.
"Who could hold the arm better and who could control it more - that's how the teams were chosen," said Cynthia.
Her teacher Katy Andrewjeski says each of her students was serious about doing a good job.
"They did a lot of trial and error and a lot of testing and modifications.. and they just did such a great job," said Andrewjewski.
At WSU, the teams were graded on several factors: how far you can throw an object accurately, how accurately you can place objects into a container, and securing nuts and bolts onto a board.
MESA volunteer John Olson said, "This is one of the hardest things they'll do of the whole event. In fact it's just restricted to high school level only. It's very challenging."
Neiri Carracas, Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities Directors for MESA says the kids are finding a creative, low cost way to solve a problem, much like the real world.
"We want to engage the students and this gets their attention, and the best thing it's teaching them math and science and how it is related," said Carracas.
In addition, each team also had to write a technical paper, design an academic display and present an oral feature.
Cynthia says her team did well, and now they can relax.
"I feel relieved because my teachers said 'you guys did really great!"
The overall winners in the competition are Chiawana High School Team #1, and White Swan High School Team #1. They go to Seattle on May 16 and 17 for the state competition.
And while it was a competition, organizers say all the kids learned a lot during this challenge while being creative and having a lot of fun.