School-Based Program

Competitions


Overview

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 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.

Throughout the academic year, students conduct research, iterate designs, and prepare to participate in competitions that demonstrate what they have learned through participation in the MESA program.

Winning teams at each County Competition are invited to compete at MESA Day, an annual competition held in each MESA state, which provides students with the opportunity to design and build projects, win medals, learn by doing, and interact with each other as well as STEM professionals.

MESA Day is also a qualifying competition for the MESA USA National Engineering Design Competition held in June. The top middle and high school NEDC teams from each participating state’s MESA Day will continue competing against their fellow MESA students to obtain the coveted title of MESA USA Champion.

Click on the appropriate grade level below to see descriptions of the current MESA challenges.

  NOTE ABOUT 2020-21 MESA Competitions:

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, there will be no in-person MESA competitions for the 2020-21 MESA season. Instead, all projects will be submitted electronically to virtual competitions. Judges will score projects remotely.

For the County Competition, all files must be submitted no later than 11:59pm on the due date specified by the MESA County Coordinator.

The team that wins the County Competition will progress to the 2021 Maryland MESA State Competition. Like the County Competition, all projects will be submitted electronically no later than 11:59pm on the specified due date.

MESA USA has not yet made a decision about the format of the 2021 MESA USA National Competition.

Elementary-School-Level Challenges

New for 2020-21!Mobile App Challenge

Mobile technology, like smartphones, is changing the way we live. Apps let us watch videos, share pictures, play games, and even order dinner with a phone.  Engineers are always looking for ways to help people, and mobile technology has given them a whole new set of tools.  In this MESA challenge, teams will use MIT App Inventor, a block-based programming language similar to Scratch, to create an app that can improve people’s lives by addressing a health issue in our society.

Theme for 2020–21: Using Mobile Apps to Benefit People: Helping People Stay Healthy

Challenge Components: The main focus of this challenge is the mobile app that students design and create. However, there is much more to this challenge than just writing the code for the app. Teams will submit a variety of items, all designed to show off their hard work, creativity, and approach to designing the app. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation describing their app and their design process. This presentation provides judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity!
  • Electronic Display Board: Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their project.
  • App Design and Code: The code files for the app will be submitted in advance of the competition.  Judges will evaluate the code as well as the overall design of the app.  

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Storybook Theme-Park Ride Challenge

Students learn the engineering design process and some basic physics while exercising their creativity in this design-and-build challenge. Student teams design and make a functional model of a theme park ride based on a storybook of the team’s choosing. The ride must be designed to safely carry four “passengers” (one marble, two ping-pong balls, and one golf ball) through two consecutive test runs.

Theme for 2020–21: Students will draw inspiration from a favorite book to select the theme for their amusement park ride.

Challenge Components: While the heart of this engaging challenge is the functional model of an amusement park ride that students design and create, there is much more to this project. In addition to the model, teams will also create a presentation and an electronic display board. Each component of the competition is designed to show off their hard work, ingenuity, and creativity in a different way!

  • Design and Construction: Entries will be scored on the design, construction, and function of the working model. The ride must be designed to safely carry four “passengers” (one marble, two ping-pong balls, and one golf ball) through two consecutive test runs. The ride must be made primarily of repurposed and upcycled materials.
  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation describing the amusement park ride and the design process. The presentation provides judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. During the presentation, students will also demonstrate that their ride can safely carry the passengers. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity!
  • Electronic Display Board: Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their work.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Wearable Technology Challenge

Technology is changing the way people stay healthy and get help when they are sick. Fitness trackers help people exercise and insulin pumps help people with diabetes. As engineers design and build new technologies, more and more wearable devices will be available to promote healthy habits and to help people stay healthy. In the not-so-distant future, wearable devices will have a huge impact on the health of many people and may even save lives. Teams tackling this elementary-school-level MESA challenge will design, build, and demonstrate a wearable device to help keep babies healthy!

Theme for 2020–21: Wearable Technology to Monitor Respiration in Infants

Challenge Components: The focus of this challenge is the students’ prototype of a device to monitor respiration in infants. However, there is a lot more to it than just a bunch of wires and switches. The video-recorded presentation and electronic display board will allow students to show off the hard work, ingenuity, and creativity they used to solve this challenge. In addition to demonstrating how well their prototype works, teams will discuss their approach to solving the challenge and describe their design process.

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: During the video-recorded presentation the team will not only demonstrate how well their prototype works, but will also discuss their approach to solving the challenge and describe their design process.
  • Electronic Display Board: Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their work.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Expanding Structure Challenge

In this fun project, teams will use components designed by APL staff specifically for this MESA challenge to build a structure. The structure will be made of parts that fit entirely inside a small transport container. The structure will be deployed/assembled to span a greater distance than the length of the transport container. The team will remove the parts of their structure from the transport container, assemble the structure, and hang weight from the structure. Everyone will be on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable SNAP and CRASH when the structure reaches its breaking point!!!

Theme for 2020–21: Expanding Structure That Fits Inside a Transport Container

Challenge Components: The focus of this project is the structure students design, build, and test. The team will make improvements to the design until they have the strongest, most efficient structure possible.

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: The video-recorded presentation will provide judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation will also include a demonstration of the team’s design being tested (and likely broken!).
  • Demonstration: During the video-recorded presentation, the team will remove all parts of their structure from the transport tube, assemble the structure on the testing apparatus, place the loading plate onto the structure, and hang a bucket from the loading plate. It is a race against the clock since this all has to be done within a specific amount of time! Team members will add weight to the container hanging from the structure until it fails.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Middle-School-Level Challenges

New for 2020-21!Mobile App Challenge

Mobile technology, like smartphones, is changing the way we live. Apps let us watch videos, share pictures, play games, and even order dinner with a phone.  Engineers are always looking for ways to help people, and mobile technology has given them a whole new set of tools.  In this MESA challenge, teams will use MIT App Inventor, a block-based programming language similar to Scratch, to develop an app that can improve people’s lives by addressing a health issue in our society.

Theme for 2020–21: Using Mobile Apps to Benefit People: Addressing Health Issues in our Society

Challenge Components: The primary focus of this challenge is the mobile app that students design and create. However, there is much more to this challenge than just writing the code for the app. Teams will submit several items, all designed to show off their hard work, creativity, and approach to designing the app. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation describing their app and their design process. This presentation provides judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity!
  • Electronic Informational Brochure: Each team will design an electronic brochure about the app they created.  Think of the documentation that typically accompanies a tech product.
  • Electronic Display Board: Each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their project.
  • App Design and Code Implementation: The code file for the app will be submitted in advance of the competition.  Judges will evaluate the code as well as the overall design of the app.  

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

New Theme for 2020-21!National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) Challenge

The MESA USA NEDC is a tech-based challenge where middle school students are asked to develop solutions for people using a human-centered design approach. Utilizing a microprocessor as a key component, each team will develop a device designed to minimize or eliminate barriers encountered by a person or by people, in general.  Students will identify an issue dealing with inequity, engineer a solution, develop a prototype, and present their solution.

Theme for 2020–21: Designing for Equity

Challenge Components: The components listed below will be used to assess the team’s implementation of a human-centered design approach, use of the engineering design process, and successful integration of hardware and software in the prototype, as well as the overall functionality of the prototype.   Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Design Brief: The objective is to provide a short, non-technical overview of the entire project. 
  • Electronic Display Board: The objective is to provide an overview of the project, highlight key points of the design process, discuss relevant testing and data collection, present the prototype, and share conclusions and recommendations for further development. Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their project.
  • Video-Recorded Prototype Pitch: The objective is to convince the audience that the design meets the user’s needs, is superior to other options available, and has value as a product to address an issue of inequity. Students will deliver a creative and engaging video-recorded presentation to pitch their prototype.
  • Video-Recorded Technical Presentation: The objective is to provide an overview of the prototype functionality, including a technical explanation of the mechanical operations, software operations, and integration of the two. Students will deliver a video-recorded presentation, which includes a demonstration of the functionality of the prototype.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Wearable Technology Challenge

Technology is changing the way people stay healthy and get help when they are sick. Fitness trackers help people exercise and insulin pumps help people with diabetes. As engineers design and build new technologies, more and more wearable devices will be available to promote healthy habits and to help people stay healthy. In the not-so-distant future, wearable devices will have a huge impact on the health of many people and may even save lives. Teams tackling this middle-school-level MESA challenge will design, build, and demonstrate a wearable device to monitor a specific indicator of health in infants.

Theme for 2020–21: Wearable Technology to Monitor Respiration in Infants

Challenge Components: The focus of this challenge is the students’ prototype of a device to monitor respiration in infants. However, there is a lot more to it than just a bunch of wires and switches. The video-recorded presentation and electronic display board will allow students to show off the hard work, ingenuity, and creativity they used to solve this challenge. In addition to demonstrating how well their prototype works, teams will discuss their approach to solving the challenge and describe their design process.

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: During the video-recorded presentation the team will not only demonstrate how well their prototype works, but will also discuss their approach to solving the challenge and describe their design process.
  • Electronic Display Board: Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their work.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Expanding Structure Challenge

In this fun project, teams will use components designed by APL staff specifically for this MESA challenge to build a structure. The structure will be made of parts that fit entirely inside a small transport container. The structure will be deployed/assembled to span a greater distance than the length of the transport container. The team will remove the parts of their structure from the transport container, assemble the structure, and hang weight from the structure. Everyone will be on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable SNAP and CRASH when the structure reaches its breaking point!!!

Theme for 2020–21: Expanding Structure That Fits Inside a Transport Container

Challenge Components: The focus of this project is the structure students design, build, and test. The team will make improvements to the design until they have the strongest, most efficient structure possible.

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: The video-recorded presentation will provide judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation will also include a demonstration of the team’s design being tested (and likely broken!).
  • Demonstration: During the video-recorded presentation, the team will remove all parts of their structure from the transport tube, assemble the structure on the testing apparatus, place the loading plate onto the structure, and hang a bucket from the loading plate. It is a race against the clock since this all has to be done within a specific amount of time! Team members will add weight to the container hanging from the structure until it fails.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

High-School-Level Challenges

New for 2020-21!Mobile App Challenge

Mobile technology, like smartphones, is changing the way we live. Apps let us watch videos, share pictures, play games, and even order dinner with a phone. Engineers are always looking for ways to help people, and mobile technology has given them a whole new set of tools. In this MESA challenge, teams will use Android Studio to develop an app that can improve people’s lives by addressing a health issue in our society.

Theme for 2020–21: Using Mobile Apps to Benefit People: Addressing Health Issues in our Society

Challenge Components: The primary focus of this challenge is the mobile app that students design and create. However, there is much more to this challenge than just writing the code for the app. Teams will submit several items, all designed to show off their hard work, creativity, and approach to designing the app. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation describing their app and their design process. This presentation provides judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity!
  • Electronic Informational Brochure: Each team will design an electronic brochure about the app they created.  Think of the documentation that typically accompanies a tech product.
  • Electronic Display Board: Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their project.
  • App Design and Code Implementation: The code files for the app will be submitted in advance of the competition.  STEM professionals will evaluate the code as well as the overall design of the app.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

New Theme for 2020-21!National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) Challenge

The MESA USA NEDC is a tech-based challenge where high school students are asked to develop solutions for people using a human-centered design approach. Utilizing a microprocessor as a key component, each team will develop a device designed to minimize or eliminate barriers encountered by a person or by people, in general. Students will identify an issue dealing with inequity, engineer a solution, develop a prototype, and present their solution.

Theme for 2020–21: Designing for Equity

Challenge Components: The components listed below will be used to assess the team’s implementation of a human-centered design approach, use of the engineering design process, and successful integration of hardware and software in the prototype, as well as the overall functionality of the prototype.   Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Design Brief: The objective is to provide a short, non-technical overview of the entire project. 
  • Electronic Display Board: The objective is to provide an overview of the project, highlight key points of the design process, discuss relevant testing and data collection, present the prototype, and share conclusions and recommendations for further development. Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their project.
  • Video-Recorded Prototype Pitch: The objective is to convince the audience that the design meets the user’s needs, is superior to other options available, and has value as a product to address an issue of inequity. Students will deliver a creative and engaging video-recorded presentation to pitch their prototype.
  • Video-Recorded Technical Presentation: The objective is to provide an overview of the prototype functionality, including a technical explanation of the mechanical operations, software operations, and integration of the two. Students will deliver a video-recorded presentation, which includes a demonstration of the functionality of the prototype.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Wearable Technology Challenge

Technology is changing the way people stay healthy and get help when they are sick. Fitness trackers help people exercise and insulin pumps help people with diabetes. As engineers design and build new technologies, more and more wearable devices will be available to promote healthy habits and to help people stay healthy. In the not-so-distant future, wearable devices will have a huge impact on the health of many people and may even save lives. Teams tackling this high-school-level MESA challenge will design, build, and demonstrate a wearable device to monitor a specific indicator of health in infants.

Theme for 2020–21: Wearable Technology to Monitor Respiration in Infants

Challenge Components: The focus of this challenge is the students’ prototype of a device to monitor respiration in infants. However, there is a lot more to it than just a bunch of wires and switches. The video-recorded presentation and electronic display board will allow students to show off the hard work, ingenuity, and creativity they used to solve this challenge. In addition to demonstrating how well their prototype works, teams will discuss their approach to solving the challenge and describe their design process.

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: During the video-recorded presentation the team will not only demonstrate how well their prototype works, but will also discuss their approach to solving the challenge and describe their design process.
  • Electronic Display Board: Using PowerPoint, each team will create an electronic display board to showcase their work.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.

Expanding Structure Challenge

In this fun project, teams will use components designed by APL staff specifically for this MESA challenge to build a structure. The structure will be made of parts that fit entirely inside a small transport container. The structure will be deployed/assembled to span a greater distance than the length of the transport container. The team will remove the parts of their structure from the transport container, assemble the structure, and hang weight from the structure. Everyone will be on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable SNAP and CRASH when the structure reaches its breaking point!!!

Theme for 2020–21: Expanding Structure That Fits Inside a Transport Container

Challenge Components: The focus of this project is the structure students design, build, and test. The team will make improvements to the design until they have the strongest, most efficient structure possible.

  • Video-Recorded Presentation and Demonstration: The video-recorded presentation will provide judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation will also include a demonstration of the team’s design being tested (and likely broken!).
  • Demonstration: During the video-recorded presentation, the team will remove all parts of their structure from the transport tube, assemble the structure on the testing apparatus, place the loading plate onto the structure, and hang a bucket from the loading plate. It is a race against the clock since this all has to be done within a specific amount of time! Team members will add weight to the container hanging from the structure until it fails.

After registering in the Maryland MESA database, students will have access to the competition rules and requirements.