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April 25: Students test prosthetic arm designs

MESA Day 2013By Melissa O’Neil Perdue, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Teenagers are taking up the challenge of making prosthetic arms work better and feel more comfortable.

Middle and high school students will put their prosthetic arm designs to the test at MESA Day on Friday, April 25, at Washington State University Tri-Cities. The Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program (MESA) of Yakima Valley/Tri-Cities has invited 240 students from the Pasco, Granger and Sunnyside school districts.

About 55 teams will participate in the competition 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Consolidated Information Center, 2770 Crimson Way, Richland.

MESA-Day-2-2013-500Using a kit of basic materials, teams must research, design, build and test a prosthetic arm that mimics the movements of a wrist, hand and fingers. Performance will be judged on:

  • Distance accuracy relay: greatest distance and accuracy achieved when tossing balls of three different sizes into target containers located at three different distances.
  • Object relocation: greatest mass-to-time ratio achieved when placing objects of varying weight into the specified container.
  • Dexterity: greatest number of bolts and nuts correctly placed and secured onto the testing device.

Students will be judged in four areas: device performance, a technical paper, academic display and oral presentation. As they rotate through MESA Day activities, they also will compete in a creative banner challenge.

The event’s keynote speaker is Paul Kelley, engineering support lead for the low-activity waste facility, balance of facilities and analytical laboratory for Bechtel National, Inc. at the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant in Richland.

The competition is put on with support from community partners. Bechtel is the lead sponsor, joined by Battelle, HAPO Community Credit Union, URS and Washington River Protection Solutions.

“Bechtel has a long history of supporting the MESA program,” said Bechtel’s Peggy McCullough, project director for the waste treatment plant project. “This gift is an investment in the next generation of students who will lead the country in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.”

The highest scoring high school and middle school teams will win Kindle Fires donated by URS plus a ticket to the May 16 state competition in Redmond, Wash.

MESA provides enriching educational opportunities that help build a pathway to college and careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields for students who are underrepresented in those fields: African-American, Latino, Native American and female. The Yakima Valley/Tri-Cities division of MESA is based at WSU Tri-Cities. Learn more at

Learn about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experiences and dynamic community engagement at



Soo Park, MESA, WSU Tri-Cities, 509-372-7385,

Melissa O’Neil Perdue, Marketing and Communications Manager, WSU Tri-Cities, 509-372-7319, cell/text 509-727-3094,

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