University of Southern California

2011 QuikSCience Challenge
Winning Teams

High School

First Place: Oak Park High School, Team #2, Oak Park, CA
Second Place: SOAR High School, Lancaster, CA
Third Place: Leilehua High School, Wahiawa, HI
Best New Science in a Lesson Plan:
Animo Charter Leadership High School, Inglewood, CA
Best Community Service:
Da Vinci Science, Team #1, Hawthorne, CA


Middle School

First Place: Hermosa Academy, Hermosa Beach, CA
Second Place: Eastshore School, Irvine, CA
Best Fusion of Science, Art, and Music:
Menifee Valley Middle School, Menifee, CA
Best Project Inspired Investigation: SMASH – Santa Monica Alternative School House, Team #1, Santa Monica, CA
Best-Measured Impact of a Lesson Plan:
Stephen Foster Elementary, Lakewood, CA
Best Thinking Globally and Acting Locally:
Rancho San Joaquin, Irvine, CA



QuikSCience Challenge 2011
High School Winning Team Project Summaries

First Place:
Oak Park High School, Team #2, Oak Park, CA

"A is for Algae – The Science of Slime!"

Lesson Plan: Our group went to Medea Creek Middle School to teach two classes of seventh graders about the functions of algae. We captured their interest with a lab about the effects of sunlight upon the growth of algae. We taught 130 students.

Community Service: For our community service project we created a booth at the middle school's Solar Derby. We handed out pamphlets about algae's uses, and showed people algae under a microscope. In addition, we constructed a website that addresses the benefits of algae, so we can spread our message to the world.

Environmental Solution: Wastewater runoff and carbon emissions can have drastic effects on the marine ecosystem. Using algae to treat wastewater is an economical and efficient solution, and the algae can also be used to create a carbon-neutral biofuel.

Research Proposal: This section discussed the uses of algae and the scientific processes involved. The proposed project determines which of three strains of algae had the highest fuel content, and therefore was most useful as biofuel. It uses the processes of mechanical pressing, as well as hexane extraction.

Download PDFs:

Oak Park–LP
Oak Park–CS
Oak Park–ES
Oak Park–RP
Oak Park–Algae Movie

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Second Place:
SOAR High School, Lancaster, CA

"Biological Magnification of Oxytetracycline in Aquatic Ecosystems"

Lesson Plan: Our lesson plan was designed to educate people about the negative effects of oxytetracycline on open-ocean fish farms and how substances used in the fish farm operation practices are magnified as they travel up the food chain. An overview of fish farming and hands-on biological magnification lab were presented. We taught 200 students.

Community Service: QuikSCience Challenge members and volunteers came together on January 29th to bring awareness to marine life and how our interactions with marine ecosystems affect our lives by hosting SOAR's first environmental fair. Over 100 volunteers were inspired to participate and approximately 100-200 community members showed up for the event.

Environmental Solution: In an effort to prevent oxytetracycline from diffusing from netted fish farms to surrounding ecosystem, the development of a selectively permeable membrane placed around the fish farm net would prevent oxytetracycline from escaping, thus trapping oxytetracycline in the fish farm areas and protecting our natural aquatic communities.

Research Proposal: Fish farms grow massive quantities of fish in small areas located near aquatic ecosystems. In an effort to provide fish to consumers, oxytetracycline is used in fish farms to prevent disease. Unfortunately, the oxytetracycline leaches out into surrounding ecosystems and is magnified as it goes up the food chain.

Download PDFs:

SOAR–Creative Presentation (ppt)
SOAR–Fish Farms Movie

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Third Place:
Leilehua High School, Wahiawa, HI


Lesson Plan: The lesson plan was designed to educate students about the sources of pollution in runoff, the effect of runoff on the environment, and ways to reduce runoff. It consisted of a PowerPoint presentation, runoff models, worksheets and a contest. The lesson was taught to more than 750 2nd-to-12th-grade students.

Community Service: The community service project was to raise more awareness about runoff. A public service announcement was aired at Leilehua High School, shoppers were educated at the Wahiawa Shopping Center, and a W.E.A.C.T website was created, reaching approximately 1,900 people.

Environmental Solution: A community-based committee would be the best solution for reducing runoff because its effects are long lasting and permanent. A committee would involve and excite the public, constantly opening up new opportunities for new solution projects.

Research Proposal: There have been no comparative tests to evaluate the effectiveness or cost efficiency of products designed to reduce the quantity and toxicity of runoff. Grasspave2, rain gardens, and catch basin are three proposed methods to be tested at Leilehua High School for their cost effectiveness.

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Best New Science in a Lesson Plan:
Animo Charter Leadership High School

"Deep Sea Microbes: Their Biology, Chemistry and Physics of their Survival"

Lesson Plan: QS students composed and presented lessons corresponding to California science. The lessons included "hooks", PPT, video clips, worksheets/activities and homework. Biology, made a lesson based on microbes' role in the nitrogen and carbon cycles. Chemistry lesson covered Lewis Dot Structure and covalent bonds. Physics lesson was about Hydrostatic Pressure. We taught 619 students.

Community Service: Students, parents and public commemorated Animo's 3rd annual "Darwin Day" with Dr. Alters, and our presentation. We presented full lessons on microbes to each science subject class. We have scheduled presentations at two other high schools, four Earth Day events (SeaLab, LBAoP, Heal the Bay CMA) and at the March a COSEE-WEST lecture/ workshop featuring the C-DEBI director.

Environmental Solution: Microbes exist in the deep-sea that have the capacity to eat oil and other complex hydrocarbons. We used commercially available Ultra-Microbes, related to deep ocean bacteria, and Archaea to investigate their appetite for diesel fuel. Future and current oil spills may one day be controlled by using microbes from the deep-sea.

Research Proposal: Microbes are essential to humans and Earth. Alcanivorax borkumensis, can be reproduced to help solve environmental crises (oil/diesel spills). Little is known of these organisms. Our team promotes/supports JOIDES expeditions: gathering/studying core samples containing microbes (revealing geographical and climactic information). We can learn how to apply microbes to degrade/decompose human caused accidents.

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Best Community Service:
Da Vinci Science, Team #1, Hawthorne, CA

"Plastics in the Ocean"

Lesson Plan: We taught 5th Graders about the impact that plastics have on the ocean and their lifecycle while in the ocean. Everything that we taught the students was hands-on learning and very interactive in order to get the point across. The students wanted to reduce the amount of the plastic the use. We taught 36 students.

Community Service: We organized a local school beach clean up at the Redondo Beach Pier. About 30 students from Da Vinci, Lawndale, Hawthorne, and Redondo Union showed. The students picked up debris and found two dead starfish. This emphasized the dangers that trash has on marine life. To promote our beach clean up, we hung up posters and flyers around school. We also announced it to our entire school. We also had a recycling event at our local farmers market where people bring us their recyclables. Depending on the amount given, people were given prizes in return. We also taught them the value of recycling.

Environmental Solution: Our solution is to get the plastic out of the North Pacific Gyre. We plan to use 10 helicopters that have Bambi buckets attached to them, carrying plastic waste inside. The Bambi Buckets then drop the waste into space shuttles that are programmed straight for the smallest black hole known.

Research Proposal: Our research was to see if plastics release chemicals into the ocean water. We tested different levels of chemical to see if the quality of the water changed and if it would impact the ocean's delicate ecosystems.

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QuikSCience Challenge 2011
Middle School Winning Team Project Summaries

First Place:
Hermosa Academy, Hermosa Beach, CA

"Get Your Butts Off the Ground"

Lesson Plan: This lesson plan is on cigarette butt litter and its harmful effects on the environment. Discarded cigarettes are toxic. They contain chemicals, cost the state millions of dollars for clean-up, forest fires, negatively affect the food web, and harm wildlife. We taught 95 students.

Community Service: We conducted a beach clean-up in Hermosa Beach. Eighteen people assisted us in this clean-up. We noticed that most cigarette butts were along The Strand wall, so we decided to speak to The Hermosa City Council, so we educated them and reach the entire town of Hermosa on live TV.

Environmental Solution: Cigarette butts are on the beach, especially along the beach wall area, even with a beach smoking ban. Smokers have nowhere to throw their butts, other than in the sand. We approached The Hermosa Beach City Council and they agreed to our solution and will place cigarette receptacles in Hermosa!

Download PDFs:

Hermosa Academy–LP
Hermosa Academy–CS
Hermosa Academy–ES
Hermosa Academy–Presentation (mov)

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Second Place:
Eastshore Elementary School, Irvine, CA

"Shark Finning"

Lesson Plan: The lesson plan focuses on the unique adaptations that sharks have. We had third graders make their own shark teeth in order to determine which design cut or stabbed. The other lab had third graders look at a shark's buoyancy by having them use a water bottle shark. Students used a little air for buoyancy and then experimented with oil because sharks have large oil-containing livers for buoyancy. We also wrote a math lab to go with the proportion chapter we studied. We drew to scale sharks on our parking lot we now call shark alley. Finally, we wrote, with the help of our teacher, middle school labs as a compliment to the kindergarten through fourth grade book on the Iemanya Oceanica web site. These labs, posted on our web site, have been shared with 203 sixth grade teachers in surrounding school districts. We taught 370 students.

Community Service: The main purpose of our community service was to change people's minds about sharks and view them as vital to our ocean's health. After viewing Sharkwater we found that sharks are being decimated for their fins. We created a web site with standards-based lessons and letter writing materials to share. Our web site averages 17 visits per day, and we've had over 15,000 hits. We made a presentation showing how sharks are wrongly portrayed in the media that we present to other schools. We decided to raise money for shark protection and spread the word at the same time by selling t-shirts, and we've raised $450.00. We wrote articles, and through those articles we were all published. We are now working with Zach Bradford, policy analysis at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, on the passage of Assembly Bill 376 to ban shark fins in California. A complete overview of Community Service is found under the community service tab. (15,000 web site hits; 10,000 through published articles; 203 classrooms)

Environmental Solution: Through our published articles, we have become involved in Assembly Bill AB 376, which is for a ban on shark fin products in California. We are working directly with Zach Bradford of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Assemblymen Fong and Huffman on the passage of this assembly bill. We're also working with the Shark Tsunami project at Simon Sanchez High School on passing similar legislation on the island of Guam where they live. Through bans and education, we're certain that shark finning will be greatly reduced. We plan on continuing with these goals after we complete the project.

Download PDFs:

Eastshore–LP: Shark Lab Bouyancy, Grade 8
Eastshore–LP: Shark Lab Fins, Grade 7
Eastshore–LP: Shark Lab Teeth, Grade 3
Eastshore–Shark Persuasive Letter Assignment
Eastshore–Dangers of Shark Fin Soup
Eastshore–Presentation (pptx)

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Best Fusion of Science, Art and Music:
Menifee Valley Middle School, Menifee, CA

"Ocean Pollution"

Lesson Plan: Our lesson plan consisted of five components: PowerPoint, Ocean in a Box, Song, Pop-up Book and Ocean Rap. We gave an overview about ocean pollution on the PowerPoint, then had the students participate in a hands-on activity. Then we sang a song about ocean pollution with Paige playing the saxophone. After the song, Elide and Lianna narrated a pop-up book they made about a man who pollutes throughout his day. Then, Ryan, Garrett and Blake performed a rap they made up. We then had the students draw a comic strip to show us what they learned. We taught 570 students, including Special Education students.

Community Service: We made an Environmental Quilt out of the comic strips the students made at the end of the lesson and placed it in the Multipurpose Room at school. All students will have access to it and will see it during lunch, special activities and the Valentine's Day dance! Parents will also be able to see it.

Environmental Solution: Our idea is to have a wheel that has rubberized panels on it that sits in front of storm drains so that trash and waste get picked up and placed into a box that separates the trash by how much it weighs. For example, if it is plastic, it weighs less, so will be carried to one area and the heavier trash will go to another place. The water will go through a separate area and the oils that are on top will be carried to a treatment station.

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Best Project Inspired Investigation:
Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH), Team #1,
Santa Monica, CA

"Causes of Harmful Algae Blooms"

Lesson Plan: Our lesson plan has three parts: a PowerPoint, a hands-on diorama, and reflection. The PowerPoint is a way to have the students learn about dead zones because we have them read it and the pictures, videos and sounds keep them more involved and entertained then regular lessons. A hands-on diorama gets kids excited about getting involved to create a dead zone. The reflection was easy, short, and fun. We had them write either two things they learned or had questions about. We also wrote down our email so the students could email us with any further questions. We taught 150 students.

Community Service: We went to the farmers market and talked to people about dead zones. We also taught lessons to 3rd and 4th graders, and SAMOHI Team Marine students. We are also in the process of creating a YouTube account — deadzonegurlz — and a website to raise more awareness to our community. Our website is We also gave some flyers and brochures to Sustainable Works for them to use in their upcoming Green Living Workshops.

Environmental Solution: One of our environmental solutions is to create genetically engineered microorganisms that eat nitrates and phosphates but what they eliminate is not harmful to the environment. Another one of our environmental solutions is to have people convert from non-native gardens to native gardens.

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Best-Measured Impact of a Lesson Plan:
Stephen Foster Elementary School, Lakewood, CA

"The Effects of Single Use Plastic"

Lesson Plan: Our lesson plan was to teach the kids about the drastic effects of plastics on the environment and what they can do to help solve the problem. We want the students to switch from using Ziploc type bags to reusable sandwich containers and reusable bottles instead of plastic water bottles. We did a pretest to see what they were using now, and a post-test after one month to see if they would switch to reusables after our lesson. We taught 120 students.

Community Service: For our QuikSCience community service project, we hosted a beach clean-up, because our project was based on ocean pollution. It was held at Seal Beach, California. Not many people showed up, but there were at least 10. We collected a total of 8.75 pounds of trash in one hour. It was mostly straws and bits of styrofoam. It was a success.

Environmental Solution: Our solution is to create an enzyme that would eat or destroy plastic. After it is destroyed it would be changed into something useable like oxygen, water, dirt or plants. The enzyme would cause no harm to humans, plants, or animals. Enzymes can break down other molecules that make up matter (i.e. trash). Enzymes create a chemical reaction in the cell. Enzymes can weaken chemical bonds within a cell causing the cells that make up the matter to break down. Our goal is for this enzyme to break down all the plastics in the ocean. We hope that this will help the Earth maintain stable ocean life by eliminating things like the garbage patch.

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Best Thinking Globally and Acting Locally:
Rancho San Joaquin Middle School, Irvine, CA

"What's so great about Eutrophication?"

Lesson Plan: We taught 276 6th graders about what eutrophication is, and its causes and effects through a PowerPoint. We also did a hands-on-activity to show how eutrophication affects animals. We also handed out prizes to those that could answer questions about eutrophication, making it fun.

Community Service: We led a group of 60 students to write letters to farmers and sewage companies, as well as announcing our topic to the whole school. We made flyers to hang at Starbucks and to raise awareness about eutrophication. We have reached a little less than 2000 participants.

Environmental Solution: A few ways to slow down or even halt the process of eutrophication is introducing more algae-consuming fish in places where eutrophication is highly possible, using ultrasonic irradiation to reduce algae, and inhibitions of nutrients. However participation of companies would ultimately be most efficient in stopping eutrophication.

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