The Return of MESA: Reviving the Glory Days of Engineering at GGHS

One pound of wooden popsicle sticks assembled with nothing more than white glue – no one would’ve guessed that this humble popsicle stick bridge, made by 2012 GGHS MESA members Severin Zaluzec (‘14), Michael McDonald (‘14), and Henry Quach (‘13), could sustain 1,125 pounds before snapping. These Argonauts placed first against 35 other high schools in Southern California in the 2012 Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) club seeks to develop future leaders in the STEM field by encouraging competition in hands-on projects, like the building of popsicle stick bridges. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Garden Grove High School MESA’s team made a name for itself by taking first in many engineering competitions, including the 2010 CA MESA Wind Energy Challenge Competition that qualified them for nationals.

Yet due to paperwork complications at the start of the 2015-16 school year, the MESA club on campus disappeared. For two years, students interested in building useful projects with common household materials found no outlet for their creative, tinkering hands.

This year, however, GGHS MESA is ready to strike back. They’ll be starting out at the bottom again because of MESA’s long hiatus, but their priority right now isn’t to win; it’s to revive the creative spirit within GGHS students, that yearning to create something useful, something impactful that has been dormant for two whole years.

MESA’s revival for the 2017-2018 school year can be accredited to current MESA president Lisa Pham (11), vice president Nghiem Pham (11), and the club’s advisor, Mr. Henninger. “MESA is back because we want to create a place on campus where people are able to use their creativity to create something worthwhile,” Lisa tells us. “We know that the concept of competing at an engineering competition will appeal to lots of people.” MESA’s goal is to prepare for the MESA National Engineering Design Competition at UCI in February. “If we are able to get through preliminaries and regionals, we’ll have the chance to compete in the national competition in Pennsylvania!” shares Lisa.

MESA has been hosting meetings twice every month during lunch on Fridays and after school on Tuesdays in Mr. Henninger’s room to flex their creative engineering muscles for their important day in February. The MESA officers purchase ordinary items, such as marshmallows and dry pasta, and challenge members to accomplish a task with those building materials under specific time constraints. At their last meeting on November 3rd, MESA members, working in groups of three, had to build the tallest tower possible with bits and pieces of Jet Puffs and foot-long spaghetti sticks. Though initially dubious of what structure could be assembled with dry spaghetti and marshmallows, these MESA Argos were quickly able to use what they had to experiment with several designs to get the spaghetti sticks and marshmallows over a feet off their tabletops, inch by inch. By the end of lunch, Angel Prak (12) and his friends’ group won. “I joined MESA because I thought it was a new, interesting club, and I liked the aspect of competing with other schools,” Angel shares. “My favorite thing about this club so far was building these spaghetti-marshmallow towers.” After accomplishing this meeting’s engineering task, Angel is more excited than ever to build more projects and work toward the MESA Day competition.

With competition in February only a few months away, our MESA members are eager to exercise their creativity with many more engineering challenges at future meetings. Nghiem Pham (11), vice president, is confident that the club will accomplish great feats this year. “We have a dedicated advisor, a definite goal, and a good board,” he states. Garden Grove High School looks forward to what MESA will bring for its members this year!

Whether you’re a natural-born builder or merely interested in trying out something new this year, MESA invites you to join their team of motivated students. It’s still not too late to join, so simply print out an application on their website,, and submit it to Mr. Henninger’s room (323). Their next meetings are during lunch on Friday, November 17 and Friday, December 1. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to sharpen your intellect in design!