Turning Passion Into Action: Oregon MESA Joins The InventEd Convening

The last week of March, Jonas, Valentina, Elizabeth and Michela from the MESA team had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to participate in the InventEd Convening, all about turning passion into action. InventEd is an initiative launched by The Lemelson Foundation to bring together a solid network of K-12 educators, nonprofit leaders, researchers, government agencies, funders, all working to advance the field of invention education. The Lemelson Foundation has been a steady partner of MESA for over a decade and our partnership has been growing stronger since, under the shared goal of expanding the reach of invention education in Oregon and beyond. 

The opening reception of the convening featured an inspiring panel focusing on “engaged and empowered students – maximizing the invention education opportunity in and out of the classroom.” The discussion highlighted how invention education paired with a sustainable ecosystem like MESA’s, made up of educators, mentors, family members, and professionals in the field, can empower students and create innovators at any stage of their academic career.

The first official day of the convening was kicked off by Collaborative Communities – The power of diverse niches with featured speaker Billy Almon. Billy is an astrobiofuturist who showcased in his keynote how collaborative communities that are united, diverse, and collaborative can amplify impact, fuel innovation, and build resistance, culminating in resilient systems capable of transformative change.

Infusing Climate Action Into Invention Education

The inspiring keynote perfectly set the stage for Oregon MESA’s Executive Director Elizabeth Stock and Education Coordinator Jonas Hudnall’s  interactive presentation on Infusing Climate Action into Invention Education.

The presentation provided an overview of the work that Oregon MESA has been doing in the invention education space for the past forty years, and delved deeper into the why and the how of our three-year Climate Action pathway. Students began their journey into designing for environmental justice in 2022, creating solutions that ensure that everyone has the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards so that we may live, play, work, and learn safely within our communities. While this year they are focusing on designing for environmental conservation, in the 2024-2025 school year they will be diving into how to make the change sustainable, designing for environmental sustainability. 

At the core of the climate action pathway is MESA’s students’ deep commitment to a better and more equitable tomorrow. Additionally, centering this theme in the context of invention education presents a unique opportunity to uplift and center native american voices, indigenous ways of knowing; hones in on environmental issues that are very unique to individuals and communities; offers ample opportunity for innovation; and finally gives our students an opportunity to define the way forward with their diverse perspectives.

During the presentation, Jonas emphasized how making the curriculum accessible, decolonizing mindsets, and including invention and engagement opportunities was fundamental to successfully infusing climate action into invention education. Attendees got the chance to put these concepts into action, by participating in a demo version of this year’s MESA spring challenge: the upcycle-pult. 

Creating Lasting Connections 

Among the many amazing panels and presentations the convening offered the following days, MESA staff and attendees also got the opportunity to see the Change YOUR Game / Cambia Tu Juego exhibition at the National Museum of American History, an amazing interactive exhibit exhibition showcasing how invention, sports, and technology all intersect, developed by the museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. 

At the core of the convening though, was the invaluable chance to create lasting connections with professionals all over the country engaged in changing the world through invention education. InventEd in fact, brings together all the MESA USA Executive Directors, giving them a unique opportunity to get inspired and work together in person to envision the future of MESA. 

We are so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the convening, and are already looking forward to next year’s! To learn more and get access to all the presentations and materials shared during the conference, check out the InventEd website and share the vision of turning passion into action with your network.