What is MESA USA?

Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) is a low-cost program designed to increase access to Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) pathways and encourage college readiness for low-income, minority or first-generation college-bound students in grades 6-12.  Students involved in MESA experience:

Active Learning – students learn and implement the MESA Engineering Design Process through numerous highly-engaging, relevant, hands-on activities in which their experience of project-based learning, while supported by the teacher, is driven mainly by student teams. Such learning reinforces Common Core and NGSS practices like:


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    • Building and testing of prototypes
    • Collecting and analyzing data
    • Consideration of design variables
    • Communicating design choices
    • Visual models, both hand drawn and computer-aided   
    • Exposure to STEM – through college and career mentors and university campus events.
      • Mentoring –students meet and learn from university students and STEM professionals who can share their experiences and strategies on pursuing a STEM major and career.
      • Campus Events – students explore unique STEM fields/majors like computer engineering, civil engineering, and aerospace and mechanical engineering while connecting with undergraduate and graduate students.
      • Competition – MESA USA hosts a nationwide competition for MESA students and their supporters. This year, the National Competition is in Arizona and is entitled Arduino Based Solutions for Humans.
      • Collaboration with STEM PUSH, an alliance network through the National Science Foundation (NSF), with a goal to broaden participation of Black, Latina/o/e, and Indigenous students in STEM fields. Link to one-pager: stempush.tiny.us/rmmesa

      • College Readiness – Rocky Mountain MESA students have the opportunity to meet and work with peers at institutions of higher education, as well as professors and scientist researchers.

      • Peer Support – by supporting the development of college-minded peer groups that support and encourage each other throughout the K-16 pipeline.

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Read about the Rocky Mountain MESA History

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Current Events:

Fall Kick-Off was held Saturday, September 23rd at the CoorsTek Center for Applied Sciences and Engineering on the Mines campus. Rocky Mountain MESA teacher and student volunteers and staff met to train on the MESA USA and STEM Push curriculum, obtain materials, supplies and resources for the year, and meet the Mines students who will help mentor and lead their AY23-24 RM MESA groups.

RM MESA, Winners of the National Engineering Design Competition. The RM MESA team from Broomfield High School are the 2023 MESA USA National Champions! Held June 26-29, 2023, in Albuquerque, NM, the team presented their work, “Fighting Hunger One Click at a Time: Building an App to Serve Our Local Food Bank, (aka FISH app), earning the highest marks and praise. Read more here, here and here.


Statewide Engineering Design Competition. A team from Broomfield High School won the statewide competition, held April 29, with their MESA USA Designing for Equity project, “Fighting Hunger One Click at a Time: Building an App to Serve Our Local Food Bank”.

The team had the highest combined scores in the four major categories of the competition: Design Brief, Poster Presentation, Technical Interview and Prototype Pitch. They will go on to represent Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region at the national MESA USA competition, June 26-29, in Albuquerque, NM.

Congratulations, Coleman, Ethan, Glori and Landon, our team from Broomfield High School. We are currently preparing to send them to the national competition for MESA USA.

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Read more about the competition and results event here.




On-going – We would love to hear from high schools and middle schools who are interested in bringing a MESA program to their school. Contact us at nexus@mines.edu or reach out to our Executive Director, Cynthia Howell, chowell@mines. 

We are also always looking for graduate or undergraduate students and post-docs to volunteer as mentors, from both Mines and NREL. Contact Dr. Christian Beren, cberen@mines.edu, with your interest.


Our Staff

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Dr. Cynthia Howell

Executive Director

Since July of 2019 Cynthia has served as Executive Director for Rocky Mountain MESA.  Her commitment to MESA began during her Education Directorship at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)  where she served as a past CO MESA Industry Board Member (2006-2010). During her current tenure with the Colorado School of Mines (Mines), she vied for the Colorado state MESA office to reside at Mines, a fully integrated engineering university.  Cynthia comes to Rocky Mountain MESA with over 20 years of non-profit work and STEM education outreach experience including: teaching middle to high school in NM and CO, directing teacher licensure for the U. of CO Denver, directing Education Outreach for NREL; to currently serving as Research Faculty at Mines where she leads energy workshops, hosts teacher researchers, and serves as Education, Training and Outreach manager for the Critical Materials Innovation Hub,  while leading the RM MESA effort for the Mines/NREL Nexus.  Growing up and teaching in rural New Mexico, she became keenly aware of how opportunities for students and resources for the classroom can change lives. Throughout her career she has been working with and providing outreach experiences for underserved populations.

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Dr. Danielle Ladd

Teacher Advisor Coordinator

Danielle Ladd holds a PhD in chemistry as well as a MA in Education and Human Development with a focus on teaching in diverse contexts. Her commitment to supporting and mentoring underrepresented populations in STEM led her to the high school chemistry and physics classroom where she has worked with first-generation, bilingual, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students for the past 6 years. She is actively partnered with the Colorado School of Mines and the Critical Materials Institute to bring innovative and cross-cutting activities and labs into K-14 classrooms.

Danielle joined Rocky Mountain MESA in the spring of 2020 as a MESA Advisor.  She is leading curriculum development and planning, website review and will help deliver the RM MESA “Kick-off” for teachers this fall.

Danielle is the STEM Push collaborator for Rocky Mountain MESA. STEM Push is an alliance network through the National Science Foundation (NSF), with a goal to broaden participation of Black, Latina/o/e, and Indigenous students in STEM fields. Link to one-pager: stempush.tiny.us/rmmesa

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Dr. Christian Beren

Grad Student Mentor Coordinator

Christian is a teaching faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Colorado School of Mines, where he teaches a combination of general chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry courses. He earned his PhD at UCLA, focusing on using physical tools to better understand single-stranded RNA viruses. While at UCLA, he got involved in community outreach through the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) to bring cutting-edge science into K-12 classrooms. After moving to Mines, Christian joined Rocky Mountain MESA in the spring of 2021 as a Graduate Intern Coordinator so that he can continue to extend awesome science experiences to K-12 students.