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Costa Mesa High School Team Places Second at National Engineering Design Competition
Posted 7/21/22

CMHS STEM teamCosta Mesa High School (CMHS) students Sophia Catania, Lucero Islas and Lena Nguyen placed second overall out of 10 teams in the High School National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) hosted by New Mexico MESA (Math Engineering Science Achievement) in June. This was the second consecutive year the team placed second at the national level.

“It was certainly bittersweet on the last day of competition as results were read, knowing that it would be the final time this tremendous group of ladies would represent Costa Mesa,” said CMHS Physical Science Teacher Quang Nguyen, who served as an advisor for the team with Engineering Teacher Racine Cross. “Throughout their time here, they have become role models for their peers, especially in the area of representing and promoting women in STEM.”

Like her older sisters, Catania has been involved in MESA throughout high school. A recipient of this year’s Superintendent Character Trait Awards for her citizenship, Catania is the founder of CMHS’s STEM Club. She will attend the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in the fall. According to Cross, Islas and Nguyen are also headed to four-year universities to pursue STEM majors.

After Islas and Catania partnered for the Stem on the Sidelines (SotS competition), they teamed with Nguyen for NEDC. This is the second year the trio’s collaborative efforts have led to success.

team with VR headsets

For this year’s NEDC competition, “Designing for Equity in your Community,” the team’s TaskBug project won the Southern Regionals on April 23 and the State Championship earlier this year before moving on to the National Championship. They gathered at UCI, where the university generously set up everything they needed to showcase the TaskBug, a low-cost device and app that would allow children aged 5-12 to interact with parents during times when they would be absent parental supervision. The device would also sense when a child has gone outside, as well as when harmful gasses are present. 

In addition to winning a trophy, the young women were gifted with brand-new virtual reality headsets that were used in team-building activities during the two-day competition. And as a token of appreciation for the team’s outstanding level of dedication to the MESA program during the past several years, UCI offered the team a celebratory trip to Disneyland.  

MESA is a college and career preparation organization that encourages student diversity and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math. CMHS is one of two schools in the district and one of only 11 in Orange County to offer the program.