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MESA kids brainstorm water issues

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Jenny Xiong, left, and Tessa Folks of Carlsbad Intermediate School, along with another classmate, have developed a working prototype of an electronic soil moisture detector to help prevent overwatering or underwatering of plants. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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How do you detect moisture in walls? How can you most efficiently water plants? Can you develop a device to measure soil moisture? Is it feasible to develop a system to recycle water used for household purposes so that it can be used for gardens and lawns?

Joshua Aries, a ninth grader from Albuquerque with Valley High School’s Team 2, discusses his groups’s water evaporation and energy collection device with other students and the public during the 30th New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Achievement (MESA) competition held Friday at the New Mexico Military Institute. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

These were some of the problems 20 teams from five high schools and eight middle schools in the state addressed during the 30th annual New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement Day competition at New Mexico Military Institute.

For the first time, students were asked to spend their academic year developing practical solutions to a problem involving water usage or needs, explained Anita Gonzales, statewide MESA coordinator. A working prototype also had to be built, and students had to use the Arduino program to design and create electronic devices. The same topic will be addressed for the next two years.

“It is a multidisciplinary engineering project, and it gets them thinking about a real-life problem in the community and about developing a solution,” said Gonzalez.

The competition involved a written report, a “pitch” of solutions and prototypes, and technical interviews with judges. To be eligible for the state competition, teams had to pass interviews and proposal reviews at the regional level.

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The winning teams, which have the opportunity to advance to a national competition in June in Philadelphia, were Nex+Gen Academy High School and Chaparral Middle School’s Team ClogGo. The “People’s Choice” award, given by students, faculty and the public viewing projects, went to Carlos F. Vigil Middle School.

The event included the participation of local volunteers and judges from Goddard High School, Xcel Energy, Leprino Food Co., the State Engineer’s Office, Nesselrodt Heating and Cooling, and the Southwestern Native Aquatics Resource and Recovery Center.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.