Community-Based Program


Are you looking for a way to engage your child in meaningful STEM experiences?  Are you interested in helping a small group of students solve a really big STEM challenge? Do you want to provide young people with an opportunity to develop 21st century skills? Are you interested in helping promote diversity in STEM? Are you concerned that COVID-19 might cancel some of your child’s in-person STEM activities and want to keep them active? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, the Maryland Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Community-Based Program might be right for you!

Maryland MESA strives to provide students in grades 3–12 with the opportunity to explore STEM through a fun, hands-on program. This STEM initiative:

  • prepares students to enroll in and graduate from a two- or four-year college or university with a degree in a STEM field;
  • targets students who are traditionally underrepresented in these fields—specifically, minority and female students; and
  • helps students develop leadership skills, improve their academic performance, work as a team, and compete effectively.

Maryland MESA uses a project-based approach to teach participating students the fundamentals of engineering and computer science. Student teams work on projects (called challenges) which are designed by APL and the national MESA organization to help students develop computer programming and engineering skills. The teams then compete against other teams that have worked on the same challenge.

Since 1976, Maryland MESA has been providing these experiences through school-based programs. Now your child can participate in Maryland MESA even if MESA is not offered at your child’s school! The Maryland MESA Community-Based Program provides the opportunity for anyone to form their own home- or community-based MESA team. Maryland MESA Community-Based teams are led by a parent volunteer and meet regularly to work on a MESA challenge. Projects are submitted electronically for scoring.

How to Participate

  1. We are introducing some exciting new challenges for the 2021-22 season! Check out the Maryland MESA Community-Based Program Competitions and decide which challenge your team would like to tackle.
  2. Register  your team. (Registration is open from September 7th – October 15th)

    A $99 nonrefundable registration fee will be charged when you register your team.  If financial hardship prevents you from being able to pay the full registration fee or if you are registering multiple teams, please contact the APL STEM Program Management Office ( or 240-228-7836) to discuss payment options.

    After we receive your team registration, you will receive instructions for registering student team members and adults working with the team.

  3. Register student team members.

    For the 2021-22 MESA season, teams comprising two to four students will be eligible for entry.* Maryland MESA believes four team members is optimal, and therefore coaches are strongly encouraged to form teams of four students. 

    *Because of requirements established by the MESA USA organization, teams competing in the National Engineering Design Competition must comprise two to four team members.

  4. Register adults working with your team.

    Each team must have an adult head coach and adult assistant coach. All adults—head coach, assistant coach, and other parents/volunteers—must complete the Johns Hopkins online child safety training before registering. Two adults registered in our system must be present at every team meeting.

  5. Participate in the orientation meeting led by APL STEM Program Management Office staff in October.
  6. Review challenge rules and requirements.

    Full challenge rules and requirements will be released in October.

  7. Attend coach’s training(s) in October-November.
  8. Have fun meeting as a team each week to work on the MESA challenge!
  9. Submit files to the Maryland MESA Community-Based Program Competition in February.
  10. Participate in the Maryland MESA Community-Based Program Awards Ceremony & Showcase in March.

    Teams awarded first place will be invited to participate in the Maryland MESA State Competition!


Coaches have the opportunity to participate in training focused on technical skills (e.g., coding, using specific software, etc.) related to the Maryland MESA Community-Based challenges. Training for the 2021-22 season will be determined at a later date if it will be held in-person or virtually. The registration fee for training is $25 per attendee.

Participation Timeline



For additional information, please contact the Maryland MESA Program Specialist at