MESA wins locally, looks forward to regionals at Davis


Araceli Valencia

Sophomores Kevin Phan and Roberto Torres modify their prosthetic arm after the first trial of competition. In the end, they placed first overall and will move on to the regional round on April 30.

For MESA students used to winning on a regular basis, this time was difficult because of short notice notifications and last minute changes.

This year the rules changed for the prosthetic arm competition, making it more challenging for MESA students. Rather than using the initial design of the pulley system, it was required for the arm to be robotic. This new rule makes the project more advanced for many now that coding is needed.

Stagg’s team still captured first at the competition that took place at the University of the Pacific on Saturday, April 2.

It was Thursday night when news was delivered about the new rule for their robotic prosthetic arm, despite MESA students being prepared for their Saturday competition.

The MESA board decided that the other free hand would be used for other tasks instead of pressing buttons for the prosthetic arm to function. This, therefore, discouraged teams and caused many to make last-minute changes. To keep from being disqualified, the groups had to think of a new solution. On Friday they had to redesign, rewire and plan without much time.

Sophomore Kevin Phan and his group members sophomore Roberto Torres, sophomore De’Lilah Vega, and junior Samuel Cornelison qualified for first place in the local competition. The team had little to no practice with the prosthetic robot arm that had to be alternated through the process of rewiring.

The added feature was a foot pedal that allowed Phan to operate the prosthetic arm without the use of his other hand. On the day of the competition his group had to test it out and was successful. “So if our board, essay, and speech is good then we move on and go to regionals,” Phan said.

Other groups had also made alterations, but the short notice hindered them from achieving their best. The 23 prosthetic arm groups that were initially to take part gradually trickled down to 17. Towards the end, after several teams were disqualified, six teams remained to compete locally for MESA Day.

Many attempted the prosthetic robot arm, but very few stayed because of the difficulty of coding and the long process of building a design that functions under the many qualifications to compete. “It’s a hard competition. If they practice enough they have a good chance of winning,” MESA advisor Andrew Walter said.

Phan and his group will be practicing for the next couple of weeks in preparation for regionals on April 30 at UC Davis with that in mind.