Students Win Top Honors

July 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Four Fresno County middle school students got a party in their honor Thursday night after winning a national engineering design competition. Their design of a trebuchet, a siege engine similar to a catapult, won top honors last month at a nationwide competition in Baltimore, Maryland. Thursday night, Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell and State Superintendent Jack O'Connell came to congratulate them personally. "These are some students that really went above and beyond. They really represent the best of the best of the public school system," said O'Connell. Edgar Juarez, Francisco Torres, Adelmo Alvarado, and Angel Hernandez spent more than 200 hours designing, building, and testing the trebuchet in their MESA class at Mc Cabe Junior High School. They were guided by their teacher and mentor, David Sackrison. "We spent a lot a lot of nights, weekends, lots of hours working on this project and it paid us off," said Torres.

"I'm just so proud of them. To have 13, 14 year olds give this level of commitment, that's unusual, that's rare that you see that today. So that's real exciting for me and fulfilling as a teacher," said Sackrison.

MESA is a national program that promotes science and engineering to educationally disadvantaged students. In Mendota -- nearly 71 percent of students in the district are English learners. "To have a relatively small middle school in a rural community here in California win, really shows that all students can learn, all students can succeed," said O'Connell.

Francisco Torres' parents work in the fields. Thursday night, his father beamed with pride -- as he talked about Francisco's future in a better career. The ultimate goal for MESA students is a higher education, but for now, Angel Hernandez is focusing on how to improve the trebuchet for next year's competition. This year's sent an object flying just over 70 feet. "Something to make it go further? we could get farther than 80, that's one of my ideas. And to make it a better trigger to make it work better," said Hernandez.


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