Skip to main content


Costa Mesa Students Place First in Multiple STEM Competitions, Advancing to Regional Competitions
Posted 3/22/23

Costa Mesa Middle School team

Math Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) teams from Costa Mesa Middle/High School recently placed first in several categories at MESA Day events at University of California, Irvine. First-place winners advance to the Southern Regional Competition at University of California, Riverside, in April. 

MESA is a college- and career-preparation organization that encourages student diversity and achievement in science, technology, engineering, and math. MESA Day events provide students with the opportunity to showcase projects they have spent months creating, bridging classroom knowledge with real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

“Students work throughout the school year on smaller projects in preparation for the competitions then find a project at competition that interests them,” said Science Teacher Quang Nguyen. 

Middle School MESA Students Place First

middle school cargo gliderMultiple students from Costa Mesa Middle School placed first in various STEM competitions against students representing the Anaheim Union High School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Nietos School District, among others. About 60 Costa Mesa Middle School students participated in the competition. 

Winning seventh- and eighth-graders include: 

  • National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC): Students identify a barrier to success in their communities, then design a project that minimizes or eliminates it using computer coding.

    • Ha Mi Nguyen, Aneida Ruiz, Rihanna Rosas Garcia and Grace Graham placed first in the Design Brief portion of the competition, second in Prototype Pitch, and third overall.

  • Crime Scene Science: a new collaborative category for which teams design and construct models of plant cells, among other challenges.  

    • Christopher Dang, Brennan Lanz and Vince Buffa placed first.

  • Math Escape Challenge: Students must navigate an online escape room using grade-level math knowledge and critical thinking skills.

    • Anton Grun and Aidan Quintos took first place. 

  • Moon Base: Students use recycled cardboard to build a structure that protects an astronaut from impacts on the moon.

    • Xavier Barrios and Giovanni Hernandez placed first in Creativity and Engineering Design, and Jayden Nguyen and Jayden Le placed first in Impact-to-Mass Ratio. 

  • Think Tank: Students research zero emission technology to create a design concept that would meet environmental sustainability needs.

    • Elliot Nguyen and Everett Miller won first place. 

“These competitions are a wonderful opportunity for students to step outside the classroom and onto a college campus, maybe for the first time,” said Nguyen. 

High School MESA Students Place First

high school glidersMultiple students from Costa Mesa High School placed first in STEM competitions against students from Compton Unified School District, Garden Grove Unified School District, Santa Ana Unified School District, Lynwood Unified School District, among others. Senior Caidlyn Lowery has placed in every MESA Day competition she’s attended since seventh grade. She is among this year’s high school winners, the list of which also includes:

  • Cargo Glider: Students design and construct a glider that must be launched with a payload, fly over an obstacle and land on a specific target.

    • Thuc Nguyen and Angel Sanchez placed first in Innovative Engineering Design (9-10 Division), while Said Gonzalez and Angel Prieto took second in the 11-12 Division.

  • Coding Solutions: Students participate in a virtual interview that tests their knowledge of programming fundamentals and problem-solving skills.

    • Christopher Macedonio Rios won first-place honors in the 9-12 Division.

  • MESA Machine: Students design and construct a complex machine powered by wind that’s tested on how well it’s propelled to a targeted spot.

    • German Leon, Nam Le and Evan Garcia took first place in Machine Accuracy (11-12 Division) and second place in Innovative Engineering Design (11-12 Division).

  • Moon Base: Students use recycled cardboard to build a structure that protects an astronaut from impacts on the moon.

    • Chelsea Vilchis Garcia and Jada Lee won first place for both Innovative Engineering Design (9-10 Division) and Impact-to-Mass Ratio (9-10 Division), while Kyra Kirsch and Caidlyn Lowry placed second in Impact-to-Mass Ratio (11-12 Division).

  • Think Tank: Students research zero-emission technology to create a design concept that would meet environmental sustainability needs.

    • Christopher Giraud and Isabella Im placed first in Environmental Sustainability (9-12 Division).

For more than a decade, Costa Mesa Middle/High School students have participated in the MESA competitions, consistently placing first in multiple categories. Last year, the high school team placed second overall at the national level.