Meet our 2023 State Champions

During MESA Day we announced our 2023 State Champions for the Designing for Environmental Justice Challenge: team Table Cubed from Alder Creek Middle School and The Visionaries from Parkrose High School! We are so thrilled to see them travel to New Mexico in June and compete with their inventions in the MESA USA National Engineering and Design Competition. The four-day event, hosted by New Mexico MESA, will give our winners the chance to meet MESA students from all over the country and connect with local colleges and companies. Learn more about our talented young innovators and how their inventions can make a difference for communities in Oregon.

Middle School 2023 State Champions 

Team Table Cubed from Alder Creek Middle School stunned the judges with their noise level sensor, a device to be installed on telephone poles by roads without sidewalks to count how many cars drive by. Team members Lucy, Lily, and Lucy interviewed their clients Steve and Tessie, respectively a city engineer at the city of Milwaukie and a member of  the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects team, and discovered their need to increase the amount of sidewalks in Milwaukie. Steve and Tessie want to keep the citizens of Milwaukie safe and provide accessible sidewalks for all, with the smallest carbon footprint possible. A lack of funding for sustainable materials leaves them feeling frustrated. Alder Creek Middle School’s team decided to step in and help with this problem, creating a device that would tell them which streets were busier and more dangerous, so that they could prioritize those streets and save more lives when building sidewalks with their limited resources. 

Their noise level sensor consists of a wooden box with a micro:bit, a solar panel, and a panel of mesh to let the sound in. The product is designed to be attached to a telephone pole facing the street, sending data to the clients every 24 hours. Table Cubed’s invention aims to help fix inequities, providing precious data for their clients to ensure pedestrian safety, especially for folks with mobility disabilities. 

In their final reflection, Lucy, Lily, and Lucy said:

“Over the course of designing this device for our clients, we learned more about coding, teamwork, woodcraft, and designing for people. […] Putting ourselves in the shoes of our clients opened up many more possibilities for products and creative alleys. Designing for humans is definitely very different from a lot of other projects that we’ve done in the past, and it was a fun challenge. […] Throughout this project, we improved our skills in creative and logical thinking, time management, presenting, inventing, and building.”

We are so proud of their work and can’t wait to see their accomplishments at the NEDC!

High School 2023 State Champions

The Visionaries team from Parkrose High School earned first place with their Climate Mitigator. Coral, Essey, Tyler, and Madeline worked together on a multipurpose clothes drying tool to combat climate-related disasters and their disproportionate effect on the unhoused populations. After interviewing their client Gabby Thuillier, community engagement manager at Blanchet House, the team learned a lot about the often deadly dangers of wet clothes in extreme weather. Gabby shared how in wintertime her clients’ clothes often get wet and stay wet, which leads to hypothermia, due to a lack of safe ways to dry clothing. She shared a story of a client who had lost toes last winter because he continued to wear cold and wet socks and shoes through a snow event. The Visionaries worked hard to create a device where clothes could be dried in the winter and increase the quality of living of unhoused folks in the Portland area. 

Their Climate Mitigator features a drying chamber, two CPU fans to create strong airflow for drying, a shelf to hang clothes, a button for simple activation and deactivation, locking wheels to allow for mobility or keep in place when needed, a removable shelf to pack items in case of a quick move, and a battery pack to provide power. The drying elements come in handy during the cold/wet Oregon winter season, and can be used to create a cooling fan in the summer as well. In future iterations, the Parkrose team is planning to implement a solar panel system, an LED warning system controlled directly by the Blanchet House, a light source, and a button controlled heating element powered by the solar panels, in order to further help with winter hypothermia.They also also want to continue addressing feedback from folks who are directly affected by these issues. 

Coral, Essey, Tyler, and Madeline shared this in their final reflections:

“Every year in MESA, We get the opportunity to meet a new person, understand their needs, and identify challenges they face. Every year we take new things away from that experience. We get the chance through human centered design to create something for communities that need it most, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and the chance to make people’s lives better. It’s an honor to be let into the lives of those we design for, be trusted with their struggles, and know that they trust us to help. MESA gives us the amazing opportunity to help support those in our communities who need it most. Throughout this process we’ve learned  to put the needs of the people we are helping first and how to always keep that mindset of what we can do at the forefront of our minds in all aspects of our lives but especially as we enter future STEM fields. Human centered design is so important because it’s vital that in the future of STEM, engineers and scientists think about humanity as a whole and design for the positive impacts their designs have on people, not just designing with humanity as an afterthought.”

We are so proud of The Visionaries and know their ingenuity will get them far!