MESA Center celebrates 15th anniversary at SAC
August 10, 2022
The MESA (Mathematic, Engineering and Science Achievement) Center celebrated its 15th year at San Antonio College this summer. Since its inception, the center has played an integral role in launching the science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers of SAC students.
SAC was the first campus in Texas to adopt the national program. Since then, the MESA Center has offered a wealth of resources to STEM students, including tutoring, experiential learning, paid undergraduate research opportunities, scholarship assistance and professional development.
The center provides support in a multitude of ways. MESA students can access computers and workstations with software specific to STEM courses. Workshops instruct students on topics from how to write a scientific paper to preparing a resume. Guest speakers lecture remotely and in person. It’s also a gathering spot for student chapters of national organizations, such as the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Physics Students.
Just as importantly, MESA is a space for students to study and connect with other STEM major students, said Alfred Alaniz, professor of physics and astronomy .
“One of the most important things about MESA is the camaraderie,” Alaniz said. “It’s a place for students to feel comfortable, where they can hang out with other like-minded students and tutor each other or just interact with each other. We even have students just show up after they’ve gone on to other schools.”
Finding other like-minded students was one of the biggest benefits for former SAC student Eric Allee, who is now pursuing a doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Arkansas. Once he discovered the center, he said he “basically lived there” until he transferred.
“Being able to build that community with other students is one of the most important factors for me being successful through SAC,” Allee said. “Building that MESA family, where everybody was helping and supporting each other, really made it work.”
MESA is a national program that began in California in the 1970s to encourage a diverse population of students to pursue STEM and transfer to four-year university programs. Dr. Dan Dimitriu, a former engineering professor and coordinator of the engineering program, brought the program to SAC after hearing about it at a conference in California.
The MESA space, located in the Chance Academic Center, is currently undergoing renovations, including upgraded computers and new workstations, carpets and furniture.
The center also includes a project room, added in 2014. With machinery including a drill press, bandsaw, lathe and a 3-in-1 sheet metal machine, it’s a well-stocked workshop for students constructing projects for classes or research. A variety of student-created innovations were born there, from an automated hydroponic farm funded by a NASA grant to an unmanned, underwater vehicle with a camera and sonar to help locate objects underwater.
The project room is the headquarters of the SAC Motorsport Team, which has built award-winning hydrogen fuel cell vehicles there since 2017 to compete in the Shell Eco-Marathon, a competition for engineering students to design, build and operate some of the world’s most energy-efficient vehicles. For the first few years it competed, SAC was the only community college entered, competing against teams from universities throughout North, Centra,l and South America, Alaniz said.
While weather hampered the 2022 competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, students will regroup in the fall to prepare for the 2023 competition, Alaniz said, continuing MESA’s 15-year tradition of STEM student achievement at SAC.
For more information about joining the MESA Center, visit https://www.alamo.edu/sac/experience-sac/current-students/student-resources/mesa/.