April 30, 1999
Two eighth graders from Robinson Academy wowed the judges during a Southern California math and science competition this month, taking top prizes in algebra and mechanical design. Robinson competed for the first time in the annual Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) contest, yet the students outperformed hundreds of others.
Math student Gracie Ramirez won first place in algebra, while classmate Gwen Dickie earned first place for her design of a mousetrap-powered car. The two competed along with nearly 400 middle school students at Cal Poly Pomona.
"I jumped up and down and screamed when I found out I won," said Ramirez, who consistently earns A's in her math class, taught by Scott Wells. "Most of it comes easy," Ramirez said. "Sometimes it's difficult, but then Mr. Wells goes over examples."
Wells congratulated Ramirez and her family, calling the win "a great accomplishment." Wells was a finalist last year in the Walt Disney Company American Teacher Awards.
Dickie's mousetrap-powered car earned first place for mechanical design and second place in distance by traveling 79 feet.
Robinson's MESA adviser, math and science teacher Floyd Weldon, joined the school this year and began a new MESA class as an elective. His students qualified for the final competition at a preliminary contest at CSULB. Robinson students won 10 awards at the Long Beach competition. Weldon was pleased, since this is the school's first year in MESA.
This month's final MESA contest was sponsored by Cal Poly Pomona and Harvey Mudd College. It is designed to encourage students to become highly trained professionals in math and science.
Established in 1970, MESA now helps more than 22,000 students from elementary school through the university level. MESA serves traditionally under-represented students, including African Americans, American Indians, Mexican Americans and other Latino Americans. Science magazine named MESA one of the nation's most effective efforts to produce scientists of color. Of the students who participate in MESA, 91 percent enroll in college.