A News Health — 22 May 2015

Picture“Each day, more than 500 Americans lose a limb,” according to the Amputee-Coalition. This staggering number reinforces the importance of fostering the future of prostheses design and technology, and is why this news out of Compton, California is so interesting.

Compton Unified School District’s (CUSD) Dominguez High School students Jennifer Barrientos and Azucena Castro, will be heading to Ogden, Utah in June. The pair won First Place overall in the state competition by designing a low cost prosthesis, earning them the opportunity to represent the state of California at the national MESA competition for Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement.

MESA features several competitions for grades 6-8, as well as grades 9-12. The competition that Barrientos and Castro entered was the Prosthetic Arm Challenge in which teams of 2-4 people must construct a prosthetic arm according to the guidelines, produce a technical paper on their design, and present an Academic Poster to a panel of judges.Metro-Ad2

The kicker? The device must cost less than $40.

Per the MESA competition guidelines, “The Prosthetic Arm Challenge involves the development of a low-cost prosthetic device to complete a set of pre-defined tasks…Teams will research, design, build, test and compete using a trans-radial prosthesis designed to complete the following tasks:

  1. Distance Accuracy Task: greatest distance and accuracy achieved by throwing bean bags into the Target Zone in the fastest time.
  2. Object Relocation Task: fastest time achieved by placing all objects into and removing all objects from the specified container.
  3. Dexterity Task: greatest number of bolts and nuts correctly placed and secured onto the testing device in the fastest time.
  4. Design efficiency: greatest ratio of device performance to device mass.”

According to a story by the Compton United Office of Communications, Barrientos and Castro built their prosthesis out of “mailing tube, duct tape, rubber bands, a synthetic belt, claw, and eraser. all valued at $25.”

In the article, Castro said, “It’s really exciting because it’s the first time Dominguez High has made it this far. I hope that our accomplishments can influence others in the community to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.”

Barrientos commented, “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.” She added, “Mr. Ike has always pushed us to do great things. He’s always been there for us.”

“Mr. Ike” is a reference to their MESA advisor, Emmanuel Ikeokonta, who proudly describes the UC-bound students, “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.”

While the school as been to the state-level competition three times before, the two high school seniors will be the first students to represent Dominguez High School to the nationals.

We wish them luck!

Click Here for more information on the MESA National Engineering Design Competition.

Image of Dominguez High School’s Jennifer Barrientos (center) and Azucena Castro (wearing award-winning prosthetic arm design) celebrating their First Place win at the state MESA competition with their MESA advisor Emmanuel Ikeokonta, A.K.A “Mr. Ike.”, courtesy of Compton Unified Office of Communications.

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Geoff Sims

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