MESA Day 2024: Celebrating Student Innovation and Environmental Conservation

On May 17th we hosted MESA Day 2024 at Portland State University. Over three hundred students, teachers, volunteers, and community members gathered at the Viking Pavilion to celebrate the culmination of the MESA year. From the student invention showcase around the theme of Designing for Environmental Conservation, to the riveting competitions, and the college & career fair in the afternoon, MESA Day 2024 was a success! Students from all over Oregon traveled to the PSU campus to showcase their unwavering commitment to innovation, environmental sustainability, and a brighter STEAM future. 

Check out photos from the event in the MESA Day 2024 photo gallery  and keep on reading to learn more about our students’ experience!

MESA Day 2024 Photo Gallery

Invention Showcase and Student Competition

The event started on a high note with the Invention Showcase. Students set up their poster boards and projects running for the title of State Champions. From sensors to be released into rivers to help with salmon conservation, to auto-regulating greenhouses, to a device to prevent forest fires, MESA students demonstrated their passion for environmental conservation and their dedication to helping our communities thrive.

After the showcase, it was all about the Spring Challenge competition! After working for months on an “Upcycle-pult,” students tested their inventions on the floor of Viking Pavilion, scored by our expert volunteer judges. While we often think of catapult challenges as distance challenges, the Upcycle-pult focused on precision, and MESA students exceeded expectations.

Additionally, students engaged in a dynamic line-up of on-site challenges, in partnership with dedicated community partners. OMSI hosted the “Duck n’ Cover” onsite, where students built impressive shelters for rubber ducks; Dance United and local legend DJ Prashant turned green chemistry into choreography with their “Dance Your Science” experience; students constructed their own robotic race cars and k’nex cars, thanks to PSU’s Agile & Adaptive Robotics Lab and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – PSU chapter; and finally, Microsoft delved into the world of generative AI with students, bringing their personal creativity and passion to dream up a novel destination and create the visual content to help tell its story.

Special Guest Open House

While MESA Day is closed to the public, a few special guests got to join the event for the Special Guest Open House. Elected officials, community partners, and key funders, enjoyed a presentation to learn more about MESA programs and enjoyed an inspiring keynote by MESA alumna Lesly Rojas. Lesly, a current electrical and computer engineering student at OSU, moved the audience with her MESA story, a journey of self-discovery and lasting impact. 

Awards Ceremony: Meet our Winners

After lunch, students gathered on the bleachers for the Awards Ceremony. The ceremony featured special emcee and MESA alumna Cobi Lewis, and esteemed Oregon MESA founding director Renee Anderson and MESA alumna Lesly Rojas as awards handlers. While we are so proud of all the students who competed and participated, these are the MESA Day 2024 first place winners:

  • Middle School Student of the Year – Jazlynn from Ponderosa Middle School. Her MESA advisor Ms. Neuman praised Jazlynn, highlighting how she is highly competent and dependable, with a positive energy that helps keep the team on task. Jazlynn is kind even when it gets stressful and is always solution-oriented. 
  • High School Student of the Year – Ro-suhana from Reynolds High School. Ms. Fox, her MESA advisor, says that Ro-suhana is a beacon of light in her community, illuminating the path toward positive change and collective growth. 
  • Mentor of the Year – Adan Velazques. Adan has been an amazing MESA mentor. He regularly engages with kids, sharing an awesome wealth of technical expertise. The students love to work with him, and they feel really comfortable relating to Adan. 
  • Upcycle-pult Spring Challenge Elementary School – Jack and Maceo, Team Snooby Gooby from Woodlawn Elementary
  • Upcycle-pult Spring Challenge Middle School – Spike, Daisy, and Hazel, Team Jess from Alder Creek Middle School
  • Upcycle-pult Spring Challenge High School – Oliver and Dyson, Team MESA from McDaniel High School 
  • Designing for Environmental Conservation Challenge State Competition Middle School – Team G.A.L.A (Gigi, Alan, Lucero, and Alondra) from Alder Creek Middle School
  • Designing for Environmental Conservation Challenge State Competition High School – Team We Are Working on It (Anne, Tyler, Ryan, and Deagan) from Parkrose High School 

Stay tuned for a blog post all about the winners of  the State Competition, who will be traveling to MESA USA National Engineering and Design Competition, hosted in San Diego, CA in June 2024. 

 College & Career Fair and Senior Party 

After celebrating their hard work and talent at the Awards Ceremony, students walked around the College & Career Fair. Over thirty companies and colleges met our students, creating lasting connections, and showing them the many amazing pathways into STEAM and beyond. 

We also hosted a special party for our graduating seniors, where students enjoyed food and beverages, received senior cords and certificates, and learned how to join our ever-growing MESA alumni network. 

Thank You

The event was a success and it wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work of our volunteers, who showed up ready to make a difference for our students. Over 70 volunteers joined us the week leading up to and the day of the event, and ensured our students engaged in the event safely and successfully. From providing feedback on their inventions, to taking pictures, to helping with clean-up, our volunteers shined and we are incredibly grateful for all of their support. 

We also want to extend a special thank you to our sponsors. Thank you to our Premier Sponsor, the Lemelson Foundation who has been making a lasting difference on invention education for years, cultivating the next generation of impact inventors, and strengthening the supporting systems that allow invention-based businesses to thrive. We are so grateful to OMSI, our dedicated Visionary Partner, and the Tygh Valley Group, our Innovation Sponsor, who has been a dedicated and consistent MESA champion through the years. Thank you to our Builder Sponsors, CE – Clean Energy. Bright Futures, Genentech, First Tech, Mahlum, Microsoft, and Unitus Community Credit Union. Thank you to our Inspiration Sponsors, Daimler Truck, Horan MediaTech, Intel, Uplift Leadership, Vernier Science Education, and VintageTek Museum. Last but definitely not least, thank you to our Ideation Sponsors, Ecotrust, MECOP, ITE, and Scout Books.

We also want to express our gratitude for all the College & Career fair exhibitors that traveled from near and far to provide this unparalleled opportunity to our students: Oregon State University College of Science, Oregon Institute of Technology, George Fox University, Portland Community College & PCC STEAM Centers, The Evergreen State College, Washington State University, Reed College, Lewis & Clark College, Eastern Oregon University, Warner Pacific University, Pacific University Oregon, University of Oregon, OHSU’s PSI Program, Portland State University, PSU Center of Entrepreneurship, Maseeh Ambassadors, Maseeh ECSMP Advisors, PSU Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, PSU Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UPLIFT Leadership, MECOP, Inc, Unitus Community Credit Union, Women at Microsoft Oregon, VintageTek Museum, Mahlum Architects, Oregon Bioscience Association, Save Our Wild Salmon, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

We are so grateful for you!