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Stagg Online

Picking up after state level loss

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MESA advisor Andrew Walter and junior Brooklyn Omstead comfort senior Yael Castillo after the long road to State comes to an end.


 No surprise that a team in this year’s MESA program has taken a step past Regionals. Yael Castillo, Brooklyn Omstead, Gabriel Zuniga, and Anthony Nichols went on to represent Northern California for their creation of the prosthetic arm.  

At the University of the Pacific on May 11, Stagg battled against five other high schools, all looking to advance to Nationals. They had already swept Regionals and they thought it was a for-sure win in the State competition. However, that wasn’t the case this year.

The team walked in with high hopes as each member prepared for the eight-hour day ahead of them. They set up their board, gave their speech that was featured by a PowerPoint. And that’s when things derailed, but the mind’s of the MESA team were still on track.

 “The pictures just weren’t going up on the screen,” said Zuniga, the only sophomore in the group.

Apparently they had the pictures linked to their MESA advisor Andrew Walter’s iMac computer and the pictures did not show up on the provided PC  laptop. They saw this as the first mistake of the evening.

Later they realized that there was nothing they could do and continued on with that in the back of their minds. From then on, their nerves showed in every facial expression made.

As they walked through the room containing the poster boards explaining their prosthetic arm’s materials and construction process, they oohed and aahed at the other school’s boards.

“The middle schoolers’ boards were better than ours,” said Omstead, the junior who created the poster for the competition. They had more than enough faith in their prosthetic arm that they were confident this wouldn’t have a great effect on the overall competition score.

When it came down to the testing of the device, Stagg’s MESA team was more than nervous.

Tension filled the small gymnasium.

Each team thought out and acted quickly to maintain success through the trials.

When Stagg went up to the first obstacle, they had smiles on their faces. The judge then read the instructions and said “GO!”

Nichols used the arm to place three screws of varying sizes into a piece of wood. After each screw was in a pre-made hole, he had to place a nut securely in order to pass. In the blink of an eye, Nichols had the first two completed. But he struggled with the final and smallest screw. Trying and trying, his team held their breath behind him and when he finally had the nut secure, they let out a sigh of relief.

Then they returned to their table and waited for their next obstacle.

Nichols again had to use the arm to grab items on a table and put them into a crate to see how much weight the arm could sustain. They were given 15 seconds to grab a much as they could and their points were based on the weight in the crate.

There was one opponent that was right on their tale and that made the team more nervous.

Finally, they were onto the last obstacle and the last thing to add to the overall score.

Using tennis balls, ping-pong balls, and sandbags, they had the option to throw them into three different bucket about a foot apart. Nichols and Castillo worked together during their two trials to complete the task at hand.

After Castillo raced against the clock to throw the last ping-pong ball into any bucket, they returned to their table and let their hands lay at their sides.

One of the judges announced that the audience was then allowed to talk to the team and final scores would be calculated.

When Walter arrived at the table, all Stagg’s participants could do was look down at their feet in disappointment.

“No one else’s (prosthetic arm) is as good as ours to win Nationals,” he said.

The team thought different.

“We messed up, you guys,” Omstead said. “Let’s clean up and go to awards.”

Going through each of the categories, Stagg placed third in oral presentation, second in technical paper, distance accuracy, and design efficiency. Surprising they took first in display board, object relocation, and the dexterity task.

There was a pause as the announcer told the places for overall classification. Stagg’s team members crossed their fingers as they wondered who would continue onto Nationals. Stagg was awarded second place and their close opponent Los Angeles High School representing LA Metro took home the blue ribbon.

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Picking up after state level loss