Robotics and LEGO Activities Set Saturday at UC Riverside

More than 400 middle school students from the Inland region will gather for hands-on competitions in robotics

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Inland middle school students will build and float LEGO boats in a contest to see which boat sinks and which boat survives to round up an oil spill on the top of the water as part of the 2011 MESA Robotics Invitational at UC Riverside on Saturday, Nov. 5.

This year’s event, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., will draw more than 400 middle school students pursuing one of two challenges:

“Disasters In, Near and Around the Sea,” inspired by the Macondo/BP oil spill. This is outdoors and likely to provide easy access for camera crews between 9 and 11 a.m. on the lawn near the corner of Aberdeen and North Campus Drive.

“Food Factor,” an indoor game inspired by many recent food borne pathogen outbreaks. Teams of students will build robots using the LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits that will accomplish more than 20 tasks on a large game board, all relating to the issue of food safety. Robots must be programmed to function autonomously.

A gift from Google is making this competition possible. The event is hosted by the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) Schools Program at UCR, in conjunction with the San Bernardino Community College District and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League (FLL).

Middle schools participating include: Badger Springs; Colton; Landmark; Kolb; Mira Loma; Raney; Vista Heights; University Prep.

MESA day in 2009 brought students to the Bourns College of Engineering.

The Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program (MESA) is an academically based outreach program of the UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering. Since 1999, the program has addressed the needs of math/science education by providing opportunities for interest and growth in engineering to under-represented and disadvantaged students. Operating in 21 schools and 10 districts throughout the Inland Empire, the MESA model is accessible and practical, and will continue to impact and prepare middle and high school students for success in higher education.

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, NH, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. The San Bernardino Community College District has made a concerted effort to institute and promote the mission of FIRST in San Bernardino County.

Five UCR engineering students who are officers and members of MESA attended a leadership conference in October.

  • Daneshia Slaughter, bioengineering major, Society of Women Engineers.
  • Wyatt Duvall, mechanical engineering major, Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) Team Leader; American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • Maricruz Ayala, chemical engineer major, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
  • Roslyn Womble, mechanical engineering,National Society of Black Engineers.
  • Ebube Agu, mechanical engineering, National Society of Black Engineers.

“We know that California’s economy needs more STEM workers to stay competitive,” said MESA Executive Director Oscar F. Porter. “These students provide the solution to industry’s need for well-trained professionals.

“They were selected to attend the conference because these students have strong leadership skills. This event gives them a chance to interact extensively with STEM professionals currently working in the field,” said Porter.

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