Lauren M. Villanueva
Photo also by Lauren M. Villanueva
From learning how to build your own battery-powered car to creating silly putty from various household materials, the 13th Annual Science and Technology MESA Day enabled middle and high school students to engage in a wide range of activities, workshops and competitions that centered around Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Held on the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara on March 3, MESA Day was a collaborative effort by the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement, or MESA, program, Los Ingenieros and the National Society of Black Engineers.
According to MESA’s mission statement, the program “enables educationally disadvantaged students to prepare for and graduate from a four-year college or university with a math-bases degree.” Similarly, both Los Ingenieros and NSBE, two UCSB student organizations, help its undergraduate students develop networking skills, focus on community outreach and strive for academic success in their STEM majors and hopefully careers.
In alignment with the three organizations’ goals, the annual Science and Technology MESA Day enabled the middle school and high school students to gain knowledge and demonstrate various scientific phenomena with the support from qualified UCSB STEM majors. NSBE Internal Vice President Chidi Onongaya felt a sense of pride in that he helped to expose students to science.
“Science has this stigma that tends to scare people and I hope to break these barriers,” said Onongaya, a third-year microbiology major.
Organizations, such as MESA, Los Ingenieros and NSBE, strive to reach and encourage these pre-college students to achieve a higher education and hopefully enter into the STEM field.
Associate director for MESA at UCSB and co-advisor for Los Ingenieros and NSBE Phyllis Brady highlighted two main purposes of MESA Day.
“The most unique aspect is that kids are getting to compete in a healthy way as they work in teams and see what works and what doesn’t,” said Brady.
She also emphasized how this outreach program provides an opportunity for middle and high school kids that may come from low-income families to directly interact with college students within STEM majors that may have similar backgrounds as them.
The full day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. allowed students to be exposed and most importantly, to gain first hand experience in exploring household chemistry, learning about the different forces of energy and having the opportunity to build a hand-held solar powered car.
Israel Tellez, the co-internal vice-president of Los Ingenieros, was one of the three student co-chairs that helped to organize and oversee this outreach program for the students.
“The students inspire me with their enthusiasm and I hope to inspire them as a role model,” said Tellez, a fourth-year mathematics major.
Furthermore, there were also certain workshops geared toward parents that provided information about a higher education for their children and financial aid for universities. MESA Day organized these parent workshops in order to provide them with both knowledge and support as their children embark on their journey toward college.
Despite the stress and dedicated time associated with preparing and organizing such an event, second-year chemical engineering major and co-internal vice president for Los Ingenieros, Michelle Lopez said, “Seeing the students’ desire to excel gives meaning to the event for me.”