For the first time ever Compton Unified School District’s (CUSD) Dominguez High School will represent California at next month’s national MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) competition after two 12th-graders won top honors in the state competition, Saturday, May 16.
The UC-bound duo of Jennifer Barrientos and Azucena Castro won First Place overall in the state MESA competition held at the University of the Pacific in Stockton for their economical prosthetic arm design. Their winning project is made of mailing tube, duct tape, rubber bands, a synthetic belt, claw, and eraser --- all valued at $25, well below the competition’s limit of $40.
Now they will take their project to next month’s MESA National Engineering Design Competition at Weber University in Ogden, Utah, where they will compete against nine teams from around the country. In 2007, Compton’s Roosevelt Middle School won nationals.
Azucena, who will major in computer science at UC Berkeley, said she and her teammate are looking forward to representing their state and Compton.
“It’s really exciting because it’s the first time Dominguez High has made it this far,” she said. “I hope that our accomplishments can influence others in the community to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.”
For Jennifer, an aspiring biomedical engineer attending UC Irvine this fall, reaching the national competition is truly an honor. She added that it’s even more exciting to know she is one of two Compton students to represent California.
“Our school made it to state three times but never nationals,” she said. “Hard work really pays off. If you have the persistence to do something it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you live.”
Both Azucena and Jennifer said they were motivated by the support of their family, friends, and teachers, especially their MESA advisor Emmanuel Ikeokonta who they call Mr. Ike.
“Mr. Ike has always pushed us to do great things. He’s always been there for us,” said Jennifer.
Azucena added, “Mr. Ike has been our MESA advisor for three years and before that he was our ninth grade geometry teacher. He’s been supporting us the whole time we’ve been here.”
MESA advisor Ikeokonta shared praise for his two students.
“This is unprecedented,” he said. “Jennifer and Azucena are very dedicated, hard-working go-getters who are never scared of the level of work it takes to be successful. These girls are not just students to me. They are like my adopted children.”
Principal Vanessa Landesfeind said Azucena and Jennifer’s accomplishments reflect the great instruction and inspiring students at Dominguez High.
“We are so proud of our MESA team who rose to the occasion by meeting each challenge head on,” she said. “Whenever you combine the determination and brilliance of our students with the dedication of our incredible teachers amazing things happen. This is one of them.”