Sixth Grader Wins Bid to California State Science Fair

Congratulations to inspired young scientists Lekha Duvvoori, Sara Bautista, and Addy Catterall-Pendleton, each of whom won awards in the recent Santa Cruz County Science Fair!

Sixth grader Lekha’s project, “I See What Eye See, Low Light Color Vision” won kudos and multiple awards in the Junior Division (6th-8th grade), including a nomination to the upcoming Broadcom MASTERS middle school science competition; and an invitation to participate the 61st annual California State Science Fair.

“I was making a dimmer in science class for electricity, and I’d heard my mother say she was having trouble with night time driving,” Lekha explains. “I started to think I could combine those things, and study how people saw color in dim light. I read a lot about black and white or rod vision in low light, but I could not find too much on color vision. I had to make up a piece of equipment for very dim light, and figured out a way to test when people can first see colors by using plates that test for color blindness.” From the testing she conducted, Lekha says she found that adults over 45 have more trouble seeing color in low light, although there was no difference by gender.

Lekha’s in-depth research, experiments and analysis earned her: First Place in the Medicine & Health, Junior Division; Second Place, overall, Junior Division; Broadcom MASTERS award for Outstanding Performance; Plantronics special award for Outstanding Achievement in Applied Science and Technology, Junior Division; and a United States Air Force Certificate of Achievement for an Outstanding Science/Engineering Project.

“If we know about this then we can think about designing web links to have not just different colors, but also different fonts,” she comments. “I made maps showing that colors with more contrast are better than close-contrast color choices. This is also important for street signs. This year I had fun presenting my project to all the judges and explaining it to them, and I liked my topic because it was really original.”

Lekha and her mom will be heading to Los Angeles for the state science fair, to be held April 30-May 1. The Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars), is a program of the Society for Science and the Public designed for middle school students. The top 5% of middle school participants in science fair across the nation are nominated for this event – some 6,000 students – though only 300 are ultimately selected to participate in the competition itself.

Sara, a third grader, earned a Third Place in the Botany, Primary K-3 Division, for her project, “What’s the Best Way to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh the Longest?” As part of her project research, Sara experimented with bleach, vinegar, sugar and lemon juice in different combinations. She tried cutting and not cutting stems, and had a plain water solution as a control. She discovered, to her surprise, that a penny in the water allowed the flowers to last the longest – even several days longer than flowers with flower food added to their water.

Judges at the fair commented favorably on Sara’s enthusiasm after they interviewed her, along with her “correct data interpretation” and “the ability to clearly portray and explain the project and its results.”

Participating in the fair was “exciting and a little scary,” Sara says, adding that her dad sometimes brings her flowers. “I loved finding out that a penny in the water helps, so now I can keep my flowers their freshest.”

Second grader Addy was recognized with a Second Place award in the Microbiology, Primary K-3 Division, for his project, “Microbiology of the Second Grade.”

“I picked the project about microorganisms so we could find out how to stop giving each other our germs in my class,” explains Addy. For his project research, Addy sampled locations in his classroom and on the playground to test for microorganisms. He was interested in finding out how his class passes diseases from person to person. When he began, Addy thought the classroom toilet would have the greatest number of bacteria, but in fact the bathroom door handle did! Addy shared his results with his class and they strategized about cleaning and hand washing.

Six other Mount Madonna School students also entered the Santa Cruz County Science Fair. In Fourth Grade: Alessio Bernardi,”Owl Pellet Discovery,” Zoology; Braeden Will, “Electro-Magnet Superheroes,” Electronics and Electromagnets; Sixth Grade: Indigo Kelly and Sienna Clifton, “Does Gum Improve Your Memory?,” Cognitive Science; and Seventh Grade: Amalia Bernardi and Nicole Vince, “Lakeology – A Study of the Health of Two Lakes,” Environmental Science.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing & Communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.