Almost 700 young Arizona students participated in the recent 2012 MESA Day – the state championship of the Math, Engineering, Science Achievement program organized and hosted by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

MESA is a free after-school program for students in grades 7-12 who attend Title I schools in Arizona. The program targets underserved minorities, young girls and low-income students to encourage their interest in math, engineering and science.

Students begin preparing for MESA Day in October, working on projects that focus on 10 challenges, ranging from wind energy and paper bridges to rainwater harvest. Participants of regional competitions in February move on to the state championship at ASU’s Tempe campus in April.

Jan Snyder, education outreach coordinator for the engineering schools, says MESA maintains a strong emphasis on engaging students not just physically with hands-on activities, but mentally as well.

Snyder says he’s seen the inspirational impact MESA has on students. “A number of former MESA participants go on to become engineers,” he says. “Some of them have personally told me that if not for MESA they would not have considered engineering as a career.”

He recalls one student at the recent MESA Day asking him about how to expand a MESA program to the high school the student plans to attend. “He and his middle-school teammates were in their second year with MESA and wanted to continue when they went to high school.”

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