Valley Kids on the National Spotlight

June 17, 2008 1:56:57 PM PDT
A school project is "catapulting" a group of valley students onto the national spotlight. Four kids from the small town of Mendota will represent the state after beating out some tough competition from over a hundred schools. The team from McCabe Jr. High School will compete this week against the best of the best in a national engineering competition in Baltimore, Maryland.

The kids are part of the school's mathematics, engineering, science achievement class known as MESA, which supports educationally disadvantaged students so they can go to college.

Edgar Juarez, student: "It keeps you focused on one thing and, like, not get distracted with other stuff. It keeps you focused and dedicated to that project."

Edgar, Francisco Torres, Adelmo Alvarado and Angel Hernandez each spent more than 200 hours of their own time designing, building and perfecting a trebuchet, an artillery machine very similar to a catapult.

Francisco says the project helped improve his grades in other classes, "All the concepts we learn, like all physics and all that it helps us a lot in science and math also."

The entries are evaluated for distance, accuracy and power. Students also develop display exhibits, write technical reports and do oral presentations.

"That dedication has not been demanded of my students until these last two years with these Mesa projects," says their teacher and project advisor Dave Sackrison. The group would often stay after school until 10pm working on the project.

All their hard work paid off. The team won regional's and two weeks later they beat out the two-time defending champions from Los Angeles at the state competition.

"We were like yelling and all that. Some people wanted like to cry."

After some tears of joy, they got back to work. Edgar now has some very clear goals in mind. "Win at least 1st, 2nd, or third in Maryland, graduate from high school, get a good education to be an architect."

Mr. Sackrison is not surprised by what his students have achieved, or their new sense of purpose.

"We've got a lot of great students here in Mendota. I think this has just provided an avenue for them to show what they are capable of doing."


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