LSES Students Win County, State MESA Competitions

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By Maya Pottiger

Months of hard work paid off for Lake Shore Elementary students when they earned a championship win at the statewide Math Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) competition.

On May 18, the 12-student team competed in the four MESA challenges, earning first place in the Wearable Technology challenge. This was added to the two wins the team earned at the county competition on April 5: first place for the Wearable Technology challenge and second place for the Storybook Theme Park Ride challenge.

“It felt like we had an important job to do,” said fifth-grader Ana Moore, who was on the Wearable Technology team. “It was no joke.”

The MESA program is through the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. All schools in Anne Arundel County have the option to have a MESA team at their school. This year, the MESA challenges were Wearable Technology, Storybook Theme Park Ride, Interactive Game Design and Wood Bridge. Students on each team were split into groups to solve the different challenges.

Lake Shore Elementary fifth-graders Ana Moore and Grace Booth and fourth-grader Darnell Witten were on the Wearable Technology team. This challenge asked students to create a device using circuitry that would detect infant respiration.

“When it’s hands-on like this and they are doing the troubleshooting, they’re more or less coming up with the answers to all of the inquiries that they have,” said Leigh Catterton, an arts and humanities teacher at LSES who runs the MESA team. “It’s this ongoing sense of ownership throughout the school year. It really gives them a sense of accomplishment.”

Catterton calls MESA “the gift that keeps on giving.” The Storybook Theme Park Ride team was made up of three girls who had to learn about motors to complete the challenge.

“The boys were very excited and impressed that the girls were so knowledgeable,” Catterton said. “It kind of breaks down a stereotype that girls just like pink unicorns. It’s really empowering for the students who are involved.”

To that point, Ana said this experience was important to her because it’s the first time she saw herself as an engineer, which is what she wants to be when she grows up.

This was Lake Shore’s second year participating in MESA. Catterton credits some of the success to the group of parent volunteers who helped. Parents helped with coding, working with motors and sewing.

“I would love to say I’m an expert, but I certainly am not,” Catterton said. “I have so many parents who are exceptional in helping us. They were the key to our excellence this year.”

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