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MESA Students

Dorian Flores, left, and Richard Kyo won the first place trophy for Team Math Quest in Calculus at the recent at the
Southern California Regional MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) event at Imperial Valley College.

Cal State Fullerton’s MESA Students Catapult to First Place

Future Engineers from Costa Mesa High Build Winning Trebuchet Design, Advance to State Competition

April 10, 2007

By Debra Cano Ramos

For a team of future engineers from Costa Mesa High School, working many late nights and weekends to perfect their medieval-type throwing device to win the regional trebuchet competition paid off.
The students finished first in the Southern California Regional MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) National Design competition March 24 at Imperial Valley College. Fourteen teams competed from four Southern California MESA programs: Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside, UC Irvine and Imperial Valley College.

The Costa Mesa High School team, affiliated with CSUF’s program, has advanced to the May 12 state competition at Cal State Fresno. They will compete against seven teams, including a junior high team and a high school team from each of the four MESA statewide regions: southern, central, northern and Los Angeles.

MESA Students
Juan Dominguez, Richard Kyo and Dorian Flores, from left, were part of the Costa Mesa High School team that took home first place in the recent trebuchet (a type of catapult) contest at Imperial Valley College. The team is part of the MESA program at Cal State Fullerton.

“Our goal was to get to the state competition — and we’re thrilled,” said Steve Nelson, the Costa Mesa’s MESA adviser for 10 years.

The competition required students to design and build a trebuchet (a type of catapult with a sling on the end instead of a cup) that demonstrated distance, accuracy and power, said Vonna Hammerschmitt, director of Cal State Fullerton’s MESA program for students in 6th through 12th grade.
The rigorous contest also required student teams to prepare a technical paper and academic display, as well as deliver an oral presentation.

“While the class meets for an hour a day, that was just the beginning,” Nelson said. “These young men worked on their projects seven to eight hours a day, often until late, day after day, night after night for three months.”

MESA Students
Costa Mesa High School seniors Ted Lee, left, and Richard Kyo with their team’s  winning trebuchet at the recent at the Southern California Regional MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) competition.

The Costa Mesa High School team built a prototype and used computer simulations to find the optimum size and weight of the components. They built three working models and practiced and refined their designs, Nelson said.

The high school’s winning team members are Dorian Flores, Richard Kyo, Ted Lee and Peter Pham, all seniors involved in MESA since their freshman year. Other students in the MESA engineering class who assisted with the project are senior Juan Dominguez and freshmen Andrew Fulkerson and Raymond Lumantas. Fulkerson’s father assisted the team by lending the students his welding equipment.
“It was like we won the Olympic medal,” said Pham, 17, who hopes to attend Cal State Fullerton to study environmental engineering. “It’s a big step for our school and for us as individuals.”

Dominguez, 18, who also wants to major in engineering at Cal State Fullerton, said preparing for the competition gave him and his peers valuable hands-on experience. “We had a lot of determination, and for us to be victorious, feels very good. We worked hard and it was stressful at times, but it all paid off in the end.”

Another MESA team from Costa Mesa High School placed second and a team from Santa Ana High School placed third, Hammerschmitt said. 

Flores and Kyo also won the first place trophy for Team Math Quest in Calculus on the same day, a remarkable feat because their math team was short-handed, Nelson said. Their opponents had three members on their teams.

If Costa Mesa High wins the Fresno contest next month, the students will qualify for the June 29-30 national competition at the University of Maryland. They would compete against teams from eight states.
Lee, 17, who also wants to pursue an engineering degree at Cal State Fullerton, said the state competition will be challenging, but the team will be ready. “If we continue to work day and night, I think we have a good chance of going to the national competition.”

Added teammate Pham: “Our goal now is to go to the state and national competitions — and win.”
Costa Mesa High School’s MESA engineering class has become a model for five other school districts in the state and is recognized for its innovative curriculum, Nelson said.

Cal State Fullerton’s MESA
program serves more than 1,400 students in six area high schools and eight intermediate schools and offers a variety of services and activities to encourage students to pursue degrees in math, science, engineering and computer science. An academic enrichment program, MESA serves educationally disadvantaged students.

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