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High School Engineers Place Nationally -- Again

CSUF MESA-Sponsored Team Grabs Third Place in Baltimore

July 8, 2008

By Russ Hudson

2008 MESA team

Costa Mesa High Shool's MESA team

For the second year in a row, a team of young high school engineers from California State University, Fullerton's Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement Program battled through several regional MESA engineering design competitions to represent California in the nationals, where they placed third.

It was déjà vu for teams from other states who watched Costa Mesa High School once again win third place under the direction of Steve Nelson. Nelson established the CMHS chapter of the university's MESA Program in 1998.

The Costa Mesa team included Raymond Lumantes, Alex Krochman, Cory Kiefer and Dante Flores, whose brother, Dorian, competed on last year's team.

Trebuchets from the MESA competition lined up on a table

Trebuchets built by MESA students on display

"To have a team from the Fullerton MESA Program compete at the national level requires much dedication by the team members and their MESA adviser," said Vonna Hammerschmitt, director of Cal State Fullerton's MESA Program. "To have a team repeat two years in a row speaks volumes to the commitment of Mr. Nelson and the students at Costa Mesa High School. I am extremely proud of them."

"Being a MESA adviser has been the very best part my teaching career," Nelson said. "Other students may select engineering as a college major, but my students know they are engineers. To see my students grow and develop and reach the heights is the joy of my life.

"Last year," Nelson remembered, "coming back from the state championship, one of my MESA students said, 'Mr. Nelson, I can't believe it. The top five high school engineers in California are riding in this van.' Then to do it again this year, with four different students? It makes me feel like I have really accomplished something with these kids.

"It is because of the constant support and encouragement from the Cal State Fullerton's MESA Program that my kids have done so well," added Nelson, who is retiring from Costa Mesa High. "Dante Flores told me he will be attending CSUF in September as an engineering major. Next year, I hope to teach workshops and assist MESA in any way I can."

The young engineers must design, build and operate a trebuchet – similar to a catapult – and beat other teams in competitions that include best in design, distance, accuracy and power, as well as submitting papers, creating exhibits and providing oral presentations on their work.

The national competition was held June 20-21 in Baltimore, Md. Competing in the contest were teams from California, Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

MESA USA is the umbrella organization that sponsors the national competition. Established in 1970, MESA assists educationally disadvantaged students excel in mathematics, engineering and science and graduate from college with science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees.

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