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Our Annual Theme: Designing for Environmental Conservation

We are excited to announce that our students will be working on the theme of  Climate Action: Designing for Environmental Conservation. The theme carries our students forward on our three year climate action pathway, centering the needs of community members engaged in the conservation of flora and fauna. MESA middle and high school student teams will be identifying and working with a local client to ensure the protection, preservation, and safeguarding of biological and ecological resources. The primary goal of our students’ clients is to ensure that environmental resources are protected, preserved, or guarded from the negative impacts of humans and their activities on the environment. A wide range of industry partners are involved in this theme, including professionals working on wildlife conservation; the reservation and implementation of green spaces such as parks, forests, community gardens; the protection and safeguard of endangered or threatened flora and fauna in Oregon; the removal of invasive species; the preservation of native plants and trees; the care, rehabilitation, and release of wildlife; and the conservation of land and water. 

Through an interview, our youth inventors will discover a challenge that their client experiences and will use the human centered design process to create a product to address that need. They will then pitch their product at a series of community showcases (Demo Day) and competitions (MESA Day) throughout the school year. We can’t wait to see all the innovative ideas our students will bring to life this year through the invention process! 

Equity Above All

MESA’s mission to bridge the equity gap in STEM fields is translated in the way we select our annual themes. Issues of justice are at the center of the Climate Action pathway. Conservation involves the preservation of biological and ecological resources to address the inequity of environmental protection in our communities, and ensure that everybody has the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards. The theme builds on environmental justice, a movement started by primarily individuals from underrepresented groups.

This theme offers MESA students the opportunity to learn and uplift indigenous leaders and voices as they learn about conservation practices and issues. Indigenous communities have implemented sustainable conservation practices in their lands and waters in reciprocity with nature in perpetuity. The detrimental violence of colonialism and forced resettlement have disrupted Indigenous People’s management of lands and waters.  Deferring to the traditional knowledge of Indigenous communities’ is fundamental in creating a sustainable future for all, especially since this knowledge and practices have been proven to be more effective in the conservation of natural resources and defense against environmental hazards. In fact, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, lands inhabited by Indigenous Peoples contain 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. 

Additionally, accessibility to environmental health and protection is heavily influenced by socioeconomic factors such as racism, classism, ableism and sexism. The impacts of environmental threats interact with and worsen existing societal inequalities. Our approach to climate action is intersectional, as it takes into account the disproportionate ways BIPoC communities are impacted, while also centering and empowering the voices and practices of Indigenous communities. We recognize how the root causes of the climate crisis are white supremacy, colonization, and patriarchy. Our students, historically underrepresented in STEM fields, bring diverse, necessary, and  innovative perspectives to the issue.

How Can You Get Involved?

There are many ways you can get involved and support our students as they work on this theme:

  • Do you fit the client description for this year’s theme and want to collaborate with our students to have them address a particular issue you are experiencing? Become a client by reaching out to us at
  • Are you a college student interested in working directly with our students to provide valuable input and empowerment as they design their inventions? Become a MESA mentor by applying here! Applications open until October 31st. 
  • We are seeking industry professionals, university students, and volunteers in the field to provide students with virtual and in-person support as STEAM Coaches. Learn more about our redesigned STEAM Coaching program and apply today
  • We are also preparing to host our annual MESA Talks, expert panels that start the conversation around different social justice issues within our community. Are you interested in participating as a speaker or know someone who would have a great input around issues of environmental justice? Email us at

There are more opportunities coming up to make a difference, keep an eye on our volunteer page to get involved, or make a donation today. 

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