Jacoby Nickerson at Brixner Junior High School
Jacoby Nickerson, a seventh-grader at Brixner Junior High School, attends the first meeting of the school’s new MESA program on Nov. 2. The students will meet after school an work to design a solution to a MESA challenge. Photo courtesy of KCSD

Oregon Tech’s Educational Partnerships and Outreach (EPO) team is helping expand MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement) programming to the Klamath County School District (KCSD) this year. MESA is an after-school program to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) exploration for underrepresented student populations.

“More opportunities that give space for students to create and innovate builds confidence and allows students to see themselves as the inventors and leaders of our future economy,” said Carleen Drago, director of EPO at Oregon Tech. “Programs like MESA infuse levels of exploration while creating supports that build self-efficacy for local students. Oregon Tech is committed to supporting the Southern Oregon community and our educational partners by collaborating and facilitating programming that meets the needs of local students.”

The MESA program model originated in California and made its way to Oregon, where it has been hosted at Portland State University’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science since 1985. As a strong STEM university, Oregon Tech has been partnering with Oregon MESA since 2014. Oregon Tech also hosts the South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership out of the Portland-Metro campus, and EPO’s efforts will expand early STEM education to Brixner Junior High School, Mazama High School, Chiloquin Junior/Senior High, and Lost River Junior/Senior High.

Mazama High School teacher Laura Nickerson has been working with Oregon Tech on STEM&M outreach for years and helped expand the MESA programming to Mazama.

“MESA is an excellent opportunity for middle and high school students to envision their future in college,” she said. “Working with Oregon Tech students gives our students access to a mentor that can answer questions and guide them into selecting career paths. We are thrilled to host MESA this year at Mazama, and I can’t wait to see the student ideas for this year’s competition.”

As a regional rural implementation hub for MESA, Oregon Tech will provide administrative support and is responsible for the program implementation over the academic year. MESA’s work is supported through grant and foundation funds they receive to expand equitable STEM education statewide. Oregon Tech hopes the program will serve 60-120 students in the first year, with plans to expand the program every year. Under the MESA program, students explore STEM fields through invention and hands-on projects. The students will participate in college/career going activities, and Oregon Tech will host family nights that engage families in STEM exploration.

A veteran MESA staff member has been hired as the regional coordinator at Oregon Tech to build and maintain relationships with students and advisers at these schools to make progress in building their inventions. Current Oregon Tech students will also be recruited to serve as mentors for the MESA program.

“Oregon Tech and EPO has been an invaluable partner to MESA over the past seven years,” said Dr. Tong Zhang, executive director, Oregon MESA. “From the Wilsonville campus, they have been able to build one of our largest and strongest programs in the Salem-Keizer School District. With the addition of Klamath programs, we’re excited to continue partnering to bring engaging invention and STEM education to students across Southern Oregon.”

Students can get involved with the program by contacting the MESA adviser at the KCSD schools listed or learn more at https://oregonmesa.org/welcome-back-to-mesa-2021-22/.