School-Based Program

Competitions


Wearable Technology Challenge Video

Expanding Structures Challenge Video

Overview

Maryland MESA sponsors regional and statewide events to develop and highlight the abilities of students in STEM.

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

Maryland MESA challenges are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

MESA Day, an annual STEM competition held in each MESA state, provides students with the opportunity to design and build projects, win medals, learn by doing, visit a college campus, 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 teams from each state’s MESA Day will continue competing against their fellow MESA students to obtain the coveted title of MESA USA Champion.

Elementary-School-Level Challenges

Scratch Programming Challenge

Scratch, a free software language developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a great way for students to be introduced to computer programming. Scratch makes it easy for students to create and share interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art via the Scratch website. By creating Scratch projects, students learn important problem-solving skills and are exposed to higher-level mathematics, which will foster a deeper understanding of the programming process. Each team will develop a multilevel game related to a specific theme.

Theme for 2019–2020: Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future

Challenge Components: The focus of this engaging challenge is the interactive video game that students design and create. However, there is much more to this challenge than just coding. Teams will submit multiple products, all designed to show off their hard work and creativity. Each component allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Game Design and Code: Students are encouraged to be as creative and imaginative as possible when creating their game. Games should give users the look and feel of a true commercially styled video game that kids want to play at home!
  • Oral Presentation: At the competition, each team will deliver a presentation describing their game and the 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!
  • Display Board: Each team will create a three-panel display board to showcase their work.

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 2019–2020: 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 deliver a presentation and create a 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.
  • Oral Presentation: Each team will prepare and deliver a 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!
  • Display Board: Each team will create a three-panel 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 for Elementary School

Technology is changing the way people stay healthy and get help when they are sick. Fitness trackers help people exercise. 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 MESA challenge will design, build, and demonstrate a wearable device to help keep babies healthy!

Theme for 2019–2020: 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. In addition to demonstrating how well their prototype works, teams will also be interviewed by judges. The interview session will allow students to show off the hard work, ingenuity, and creativity they used to solve this challenge.

  • Device Demonstration: During the device demonstration portion of the competition, each team will place their device on an infant medical manikin and will demonstrate their device’s ability to accurately monitor respiration rate.
  • Interview Session: The interview session will be a chance for teams to detail how a human-centered design process was used to develop a solution. Teams will discuss not only the circuits and mechanical components they used in their device but also how they designed and built a device that could be used on a baby.
  • Design Bonus: Teams will receive bonus points for a device that is exceptionally well designed and executed, demonstrates excellent consideration of human factors (ergonomics), and/or is the result of remarkable effort.

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

Expanding Structure Challenge for Elementary School

In this MESA challenge, students will use the engineering design process to design and build an expanding structure that will be rated on its strength-to-mass ratio (efficiency). The structure will be made of components that fit entirely inside a transport container of a specified size. The structure will have the capability to be deployed/assembled to span a greater distance than the length of the transport container. At the MESA competition, the team will remove the components of their structure from the transport container, assemble the structure, and demonstrate the strength of the deployed structure. The audience will be on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable SNAP and CRASH when the structure reaches its breaking point!!

Theme for 2019–2020: Expanding Structure That Fits Inside a Transport Container

Testing the Structure:

  • Each competing team will have a limited amount of time to 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.
  • Team members will add weight to the container hanging from the structure. Weight will be added until the structure fails.
  • An efficiency score will be calculated for the structure. Entries will be ranked by efficiency score.

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

Middle-School-Level Challenges

Alice Programming Challenge

Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy and fun for students to learn the fundamentals of object-oriented programming through the creation of animations and simple video games. Designed as an introductory teaching tool, Alice uses 3D graphics and a “drag-and-drop” feature for an engaging programming experience. Teams will develop interactive games that are fun, educational, and creative using the Alice 3 (v3.5) programming software. Each team will develop a multilevel game related to a specific theme.

Theme for 2019–2020: Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future

Challenge Components: The primary focus of this engaging challenge is the interactive video game that students design and create. However, there is much more to this challenge than just coding an electronic adventure. Teams will submit several products, all designed to show off their hard work, creativity, and approach to designing the game. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Game Design and Code: Students are encouraged to be as creative and imaginative as possible when creating their three-dimensional worlds in Alice. Games should give users the look and feel of a true commercially styled video game that kids want to play at home!
  • Oral Presentation: Each team will produce a presentation describing their game and the 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!
  • Display Board: Each team will create a three-panel display board to showcase their work.

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

National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) Challenge for Middle School

NEDC is an Arduino-based challenge where students are asked to develop solutions for people using the human-centered design (people-focused) approach. Students identify a client in their community who has a need, engineer a solution for this need using Arduino as the key component, and present the solution and recommendation(s) for next steps.

While teams are encouraged to identify a client in their community, they may alternatively focus on a broad area of need (for example, agriculture, physical disabilities) or choose one of two fictitious clients provided by Maryland MESA. The two (fictitious) clients are Disaster Action Network, a nonprofit organization looking for solutions to aid those affected by natural disasters, and Device Security Solutions, a small start-up interested in solutions to reduce mobile device theft.

Theme for 2019–2020: Arduino-Based Solutions

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

  • Technical Presentation: The objective is to provide an overview of the prototype functionality, including a technical explanation of the mechanical operations and software operations and integration of the two. Students will prepare and deliver a presentation and demonstration of the functionality of the prototype.
  • Display Board: The objective is to provide an overview of the project, highlight key points of the design process, showcase relevant data, present the prototype, and share conclusions and recommendations for further development. Students will prepare a poster that will provide an easily understood overview of the project and the prototype. The poster will also be used during the technical presentation.
  • Project Report: The objective is to provide an overview of the design process and demonstrate the team’s effective use of the engineering design process. Students will write a report (5–10 pages) that contains their problem statement, summary of the design process, results, conclusion, and next steps supported by pictures, charts, tables, and/or graphs. The report should be a journey through the design process, demonstrating key points of the process and offering justifications for design choices. The report will have an appendix containing the commented Arduino code and detailed budget.
  • Prototype Pitch: The objective is to convince investors or management that the design meets the client’s needs, is superior to other options available, and has business value as a product. Students will deliver a creative, engaging presentation to pitch their prototype. The presentation should define the problem, provide a detailed description of the client and the client’s needs, discuss current solutions to the problem and their weaknesses, provide a demonstration of the prototype highlighting its advantages, and demonstrate the business value of the product, including a market analysis and marketing plan.

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

Wearable Technology Challenge for Middle School

Technology is changing the way people stay healthy and get help when they are sick. Fitness trackers help people exercise. 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 MESA challenge will design, build, and demonstrate a wearable device to monitor a specific indicator of health in infants.

Theme for 2019–2020: 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 computer components, wires, and switches. In addition to demonstrating how well their prototype works, teams will also produce a video about their design process and participate in an interview session with judges. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Video Submission: Each team will create a video that chronicles their design process. This is a great opportunity for students to show off their creativity!
  • Device Demonstration: During the device demonstration portion of the competition, each team will place their device on an infant medical manikin and will demonstrate their device’s ability to accurately monitor respiration rate. They will also demonstrate how easy the device is to use.
  • Interview Session: The interview session will be a chance for teams to detail how a human-centered design process was used to develop a solution. Teams will discuss not only the technical aspects of their device but also how they designed and built a device that could be used on a baby.
  • Design Bonus: Teams will receive bonus points for a device that is exceptionally well designed and executed, demonstrates excellent consideration of human factors (ergonomics), and/or is the result of remarkable effort. Devices that use wireless technology will also receive bonus points.

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

Expanding Structure Challenge for Middle School

In this MESA challenge, students will use the engineering design process to design and build an expanding structure that will be rated on its strength-to-mass ratio (efficiency). The structure will be made of components that fit entirely inside a transport container of a specified size. The structure will have the capability to be deployed/assembled to span a greater distance than the length of the transport container. At the MESA competition, the team will remove the components of their structure from the transport container, assemble the structure, and demonstrate the strength of the deployed structure. The audience will be on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable SNAP and CRASH when the structure reaches its breaking point!!

Theme for 2019–2020: Expanding Structure That Fits Inside a Transport Container

Testing the Structure:

  • Each competing team will have a limited amount of time to 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.
  • Team members will add weight to the container hanging from the structure. Weight will be added until the structure fails.
  • An efficiency score will be calculated for the structure. Entries will be ranked by efficiency score.

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

High-School-Level Challenges

Cyber Robot Challenge

Student teams will use the Python programming language to program a virtual robot to navigate through a series of virtual mazes while executing a mission. For this year’s mission, the robot must collect packets in a predefined order, disable viruses in locked boxes, and collect clues to crack the mazes’ secret passphrases while avoiding bugs.

Theme for 2019–2020: To accomplish this year’s mission, the robot must locate and collect packets in a predefined order, disable viruses in locked boxes, and accumulate clues to crack the mazes’ secret passphrases. All of this must be accomplished while simultaneously avoiding dangerous bugs lurking in the mazes!

Challenge Components: The multicomponent nature of this challenge provides student teams with a variety of opportunities to show off their strengths. At first glance, this looks like an ordinary computer programming challenge. However, as students dive deeper, they will discover there is much more to it than simple coding. Teams will submit several products, all designed to show off their hard work, creativity, and approach to designing an effective, efficient solution to accomplish the mission. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Code Design and Implementation: The team will submit the Python code files created to control the virtual robot. The code should be written as generically as possible, keeping in mind that the aim is to design an autonomous robot that can navigate any maze. APL software engineers will evaluate the code based on demonstrated understanding of robot controls, code design, code efficiency, code correctness, code organization, and effort.
  • Game Performance: The game performance (maze execution) portion of the challenge will put the team’s robot controller to the test in never-before-seen mazes. During this live-action portion of the competition, teams will also demonstrate their ability to solve cryptographs, make number base conversions, and modify Python code on the fly.
  • Oral Presentation: Each team will prepare and deliver a presentation that describes, in detail, their solution to the MESA challenge, as well as the iterative design process used by the team. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity and communication skills!
  • Display Board: Each team will create a display board to showcase their work. The display board is an important element that as a stand-alone product should help an observer quickly understand the overall scope of the problem, the resulting solution, and next steps of the project. As a visual aid during the oral presentation, the display board can be a powerful tool providing important graphics and highlights related to the solution.

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

National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) Challenge for High School

NEDC is an Arduino-based challenge where students are asked to develop solutions for people using the human-centered design (people-focused) approach. Students identify a client in their community who has a need, engineer a solution for this need using Arduino as the key component, and present the solution and recommendation(s) for next steps.

While teams are encouraged to identify a client in their community, they may alternatively focus on a broad area of need (for example, agriculture, physical disabilities) or choose one of two fictitious clients provided by Maryland MESA. The two (fictitious) clients are Disaster Action Network, a nonprofit organization looking for solutions to aid those affected by natural disasters, and Device Security Solutions, a small start-up interested in solutions to reduce mobile device theft.

Theme for 2019–2020: Arduino-Based Solutions

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

  • Technical Presentation: The objective is to provide an overview of the prototype functionality, including a technical explanation of the mechanical operations and software operations and integration of the two. Students will prepare and deliver a presentation and demonstration of the functionality of the prototype.
  • Display Board: The objective is to provide an overview of the project, highlight key points of the design process, showcase relevant data, present the prototype, and share conclusions and recommendations for further development. Students will prepare an electronic academic poster that will provide an easily understood overview of the project and the prototype. The poster will also be used during the technical presentation.
  • Project Report: The objective is to provide an overview of the design process and demonstrate the team’s effective use of the engineering design process. Students will write a report (5–10 pages) that contains their problem statement, summary of the design process, results, conclusion, and next steps supported by pictures, charts, tables, and/or graphs. The report should be a journey through the design process, demonstrating key points of the process and offering justifications for design choices. The report will have an appendix containing the commented Arduino code and detailed budget.
  • Prototype Pitch: The objective is to convince investors or management that the design meets the client’s needs, is superior to other options available, and has business value as a product. Students will deliver a creative, engaging presentation to pitch their prototype. The presentation should define the problem, provide a detailed description of the client and the client’s needs, discuss current solutions to the problem and their weaknesses, provide a demonstration of the prototype highlighting its advantages, and demonstrate the business value of the product, including a market analysis and marketing plan.

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

Wearable Technology Challenge for High School

Technology is changing the way people stay healthy and get help when they are sick. Fitness trackers help people exercise. 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 MESA challenge will design, build, and demonstrate a wearable device to monitor a specific indicator of health in infants.

Theme for 2019–2020: 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 computer components, wires, and switches. In addition to demonstrating how well their prototype works, teams will also produce a video about their design process and participate in an interview session with judges. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Video Submission: Each team will create a video that chronicles their design process. This is a great opportunity for students to show off their creativity!
  • Device Demonstration: During the device demonstration portion of the competition, each team will place their device on an infant medical manikin and will demonstrate their device’s ability to accurately monitor respiration rate. They will also demonstrate how easy the device is to use.
  • Interview Session: The interview session will be a chance for teams to detail how a human-centered design process was used to develop a solution. Teams will discuss not only the technical aspects of their device but also how they designed and built a device that could be used on a baby.
  • Design Bonus: Teams will receive bonus points for a device that is exceptionally well designed and executed, demonstrates excellent consideration of human factors (ergonomics), and/or is the result of remarkable effort. Devices that use wireless technology will also receive bonus points.

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

Expanding Structure Challenge for High School

In this MESA challenge, students will use the engineering design process to design and build an expanding structure that will be rated on its strength-to-mass ratio (efficiency). The structure will be made of components that fit entirely inside a transport container of a specified size. The structure will have the capability to be deployed/assembled to span a greater distance than the length of the transport container. At the MESA competition, the team will remove the components of their structure from the transport container, assemble the structure, and demonstrate the strength of the deployed structure. The audience will be on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable SNAP and CRASH when the structure reaches its breaking point!!

Theme for 2019–2020: Expanding Structure That Fits Inside a Transport Container

Testing the Structure:

  • Each competing team will have a limited amount of time to 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.
  • Team members will add weight to the container hanging from the structure. Weight will be added until the structure fails.
  • An efficiency score will be calculated for the structure. Entries will be ranked by efficiency score.

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