STEM Challenges at MESA Day

Enrolled students in the USC MESA program at partner middle and high schools work on exciting and authentic team-based projects. These projects cultiminate in the annual MESA Day competitions hosted at the local, regional, and state levels. MESA students will:

  • Apply mathematics, science, and engineering principles to academic contests, and over time, develop their mastery of these academic skills.
  • Build self-esteem and confidence through preparation, participation, and access to relevant real-world STEM challenges.
  • Be part of the maker and creator movement that encourages problem-solving in a framework fostering creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills.

Panda Express MESA Day @ USC

Since 2000, Panda Express has sponsored this local competition with over 800 MESA students, advisors, teachers, parents, administrators, USC student volunteers, USC professors and staff, and Panda Cares volunteers in attendance each year.


Some of the competitions for 2021-2022 are grade-specific, as listed below. For teams, a 9th grade student cannot be on the same team as a 12th grade student. If this occurs, the team will compete in the higher grade level (i.e., 11/12). This also applies to middle school teams for grade-specific competitions. At MESA Day @ USC 2022, competitions will include:

6, 7/8, 9/10, and 11/12 Divisions

  • Cargo Glider (in-person) - team of 2 to 3 students
  • Crime Scene Science - team of 2 to 3 students
  • MESA Machine (in-person) - team of 2 to 3 students
  • Moon Base (in-person) - team of 2 to 3 students
  • Think Tank VIRTUAL - team of 2 to 3 students

6-8 and 9-12 Divisions (i.e., mixed 6-8 grades / mixed 9-12 grades)

  • Coding Solutions VIRTUAL - team of 1 to 2 students
  • Math Escape Challenge VIRTUAL - team of 2 to 3 students
  • MESA Designing for Equity (NEDC) - team of 2 to 4 students
The following e-learning modules provide participating MESA students an overview, rules clarification, and important mathematical and science concepts to consider for the specified project. MESA students can review the modules on their own, at their own pace, and on any device with Internet, video, and audio capability.
MESA Machine

Published on February 4th, 2019

Last updated on December 1st, 2021