Hen­son stu­dents’ pros­thetic arm wins state com­pe­ti­tion

Team to com­pete in MESA na­tion­als in late June

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Hard work and prepa­ra­tion came in “handy” for Matthew Hen­son Mid­dle Schools’ Math­e­mat­ics, En­gi­neer­ing and Science Achieve­ment pros­thetic arm team, which won the statewide MESA com­pe­ti­tion. The team will now rep­re­sent Mary­land in the Na­tional MESA com­pe­ti­tion, which will be held June 23-25 at We­ber State Univer­sity in

Og­den, Utah.

“I am im­mensely proud of this group of stu­dents, their hard work and their team­work,” said Hen­son Prin­ci­pal Christina Ca­ballero.

Mary­land MESA is a struc­tured, pre-col­lege pro­gram for chil­dren in grades 3 to 12, de­signed to pre­pare stu­dents for aca­demic and pro­fes­sional ca­reers in math­e­mat­ics, en­gi­neer­ing, science and tech­nol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land MESA web­site.

The state com­pe­ti­tion was held May 19 at the Johns Hopkins Ap­plied Physics Lab­o­ra­tory in Lau­rel. Sev­eral Charles County teams com­peted — and Dr. James Craik Ele­men­tary School, Milton Somers Mid­dle School and West­lake High School also placed in the com­pe­ti­tion. But Hen­son was the only Charles County school to take over­all win­ner and ad­vance to the MESA USA Na­tional En­gi­neer­ing De­sign Com­pe­ti­tion later this month.

Each com­pet­ing team was pro­vided a kit of ba­sic elec­tronic com­po­nents and had to de­sign and pro­gram its own pros­thetic arm to com­plete two tasks, said eighth grader Shelby Hiens, 14, one of the team mem­bers.

“In one, you’re mov­ing ob­jects on a ta­ble with the pros­thetic, and with the other, you’re throw­ing hackey-sacks into a goal on the floor,” Hiens said.

Brian Palko, spon­sor for the team, said he per­formed the sol­der­ing for the pros­thetic arm, but the de­sign and pro­gram­ming work was done en­tirely by the stu­dents.

“The thing I helped with most was the ac­tual con­struc­tion of the arm, be­cause they can’t use power tools so I would do the cut­ting, but they did ev­ery­thing else by them­selves,” Palko said.

Stu­dents also had to put to­gether a poster board pre­sen­ta­tion and make a tech­ni­cal pre­sen­ta­tion to the judges, said eighth grader Justin Ste­wart, 14.

“We had to ex­plain our de­sign process,” Ste­wart said.

Palko said that on the pre­sen­ta­tion por­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion, “they blew them out of the park,” re­sult­ing in the first place win.

“It took all of our knowl­edge to make that be­cause of the fact that it cov­ered so many ar­eas of the pro­ject,” Hiens said.

Eighth grader Si­mone McCarter-Dodzie, 14, said that when they ar­rived at the state com­pe­ti­tion, they dis­cov­ered their pros­thetic arm didn’t meet the judges’ spec­i­fi­ca­tions, re­quir­ing quick mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

“When we got there, they told us that the but­ton por­tion of our arm wasn’t al­lowed. So we had five min­utes to change ev­ery­thing, and use the but­ton in a dif­fer­ent way so it was OK for the com­pe­ti­tion,” McCarter-Dodzie said.

Sixth grader Charles Martin, 12, said he orig­i­nally joined to take part in the MESA hover board chal­lenge.

“I thought that was go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing, but when I heard of the pros­thetic arm, I thought that was way bet­ter, so I de­cided to join pros­thetic arm [team],” Martin said.

Hiens said she has an in­ter­est in math and science and joined MESA to put that in­ter­est to work on a team pro­ject.

“It re­ally in­ter­ested me that I could build some­thing with a group of peo­ple and col­lab­o­rat­ing to­gether to do some­thing that mat­ters,” Hiens said.

Martin said the en­gi­neer­ing skills he learned are im­por­tant, but even more so are the team skills.

“The big­gest thing I’d learned from the ex­pe­ri­ence was team­work and work­ing to­gether with other peo­ple,” Martin said.

Hiens said that she planned to go into an en­gi­neer­ing field.

“Orig­i­nally, I wanted to be a petroleum en­gi­neer, but now I’m not so sure,” Hiens said. “Now I might want to go into ro­bot­ics en­gi­neer­ing, or cy­ber-en­gi­neer­ing.”

McCarter-Dodzie said she was most look­ing for­ward to the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the na­tional MESA com­pe­ti­tion.

“See­ing the other arms and the other com­peti­tors, we can def­i­nitely learn from what the other teams have done, and maybe next year they can im­prove on our arm,” McCarter-Dodzie said.

Ca­ballero said she was im­pressed by the amount of work the stu­dents put into their pro­ject.

“This is a re­ally dy­namic group of in­di­vid­u­als,” Ca­ballero said. “They had some chal­lenges, in which they had to make some ad­just­ments, but it was in the midst of this that their team­work and per­se­ver­ance, and be­ing able to fo­cus on the task at hand, that got them the win.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

From left, Matthew Hen­son Mid­dle School MESA spon­sor Brian Palko, pros­thetic arm team mem­bers Si­mone McCarter-Dodzie, Shelby Hiens, Charles Martin and Justin Ste­wart, and spon­sor Kait­lyn Whit­field, with the first place tro­phies the team won in the county and state MESA com­pe­ti­tions.

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