MESA prosthetic arm team competes at state tourney tomorrow, hoping to reach nationals once again


Araceli Valencia

To prepare for the competiton tomrrow, junior Kevin Johnson strings a piece of wire through the micro tubing. This will allow for the device to perform at a high level.

Junior Kevin Johnson and senior Gabriel Zuniga have a close connection and the same goal. Last year, Zuniga and his team won Nationals for the MESA prosthetic arm competition. This year, they both hope to make it back to Nationals, and the big hurdle is tomorrow’s state competition at University of the Pacific.

“We (the team) really don’t want to let (Zuniga) down this year,” Johnson said. “We want to bring home another title — not only for him, but for our school.”

Perla Gonzalez, a sophomore, is a first-year member also competing at the state level tomorrow. She says she’s motivated by the friendly rivalry amongst the teams. “When we come together, we are all just so funny and competitive,” Gonzalez said. She remembers times when they would lightheartedly tease the other team, saying things like “Oh your team got 20 seconds, well we are going to do 15.” Gonzalez says that they are all really close and share a strong bond. Even though she’s the only girl in the arm group, she is treated like a little brother.

The competition requires the arm to complete three tasks: the distance and accuracy test, where teams throw beanbags inside of a pyramid; dexterity, where teams insert three bolts inside of a wooden board and screw nuts on the backs; and finally relocation, where teams put 10 items inside of a basket and then take them out as fast as possible.

Gonzalez watches as her arm testers compete in these tasks. “When you see someone (on your team) mess up, you feel it,” she said. “We could have done better.”

Andy Hoang, a senior from another prosthetic arm team, credits the constant improvement of his technique as motivation.

“We have this notebook that we have to update every day to follow our progress and our goals for that day,” he said. “There is a budget sheet that we have to fill out. When we add something to the arm, we have to add that: find the prices, the receipt.”

Hoang said he believes that “Stagg has the best MESA program in the USA.” He recalls that the MESA team has placed first for the last couple of years. “(Our school) has a name to up hold and I would like to keep it.” He then recalled that he felt really rewarded when he won third place for his prosthetic arm when all of the positions above him were held by other teams. “That’s what keeps me motivated, the name,” said Hoang.

Zuniga says that MESA adviser Andrew Walter encourages him to do better. “He pushes us to the next level, to exceed what we can do,” Zuniga said. He was on a team with Brooklyn Omstead, and he remembers how her gaining a second win at Nationals last year was something memorable. This influenced his mindset to achieve the same and that is the course his team set on.

After hearing that other people admired him, he said he’s grateful for their hard work, another reason for their success. “If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be pushing ourselves as much as we are, and we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

He and Hoang both find motivation in their rivalry. “When they do better, I want to do better. They deserve a competition, ” Hoang said. “They deserve someone who can compete with them because most of the teams can’t.”

Zuniga says that teams from other schools were nothing to worry about, that the big competition was against the other Stagg teams. “Last year we kind of breezed through it,“ Zuniga said.

Tomorrow they hope to do it again.