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Science & Engineering Fair Winners

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
Middle School student crowned the Grand Award Winner.
Congratulations to the 11 Torreys recognized during the 70th Annual Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair. Students in Grades 6–12 from San Diego and Imperial Counties interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics were eligible to compete. After brainstorming a solution to a problem, students used critical thinking skills to analyze their research results. They submitted a paper with their conclusions and recommendations for a chance to be accepted to the fair.

“Participating in the fair is an incredible chance for them to delve into the world of science firsthand, engaging in real experimentation and research,” shares Middle School Science Educator Matt Bessler (a two-time Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair Teacher of the Year). “What’s fascinating is that they don’t just Google the answers. They come up with something they are curious about, mold it into a project, go through the entire investigative process, and ultimately arrive at answers to the very questions they posed.”

Abstract topics included the creation of an automatic hockey puck passer, whether reef-safe sunscreen protects sea life, comparing electrolyte drinks, rotating vs. flat solar panels, and testing passwords against attacks.

The students who were accepted into the fair presented and defended their projects for judges who are professionals in their field on March 13 in Balboa Park. Top projects can earn students recognition, scholarships, cash prizes, educational experiences and entrance to additional fairs.

Winners were recognized at the awards ceremony on March 14 at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. In the junior division, LJCDS Middle School students were 10 of the 163 winners in 16 categories. An Upper School student was one of the 135 winners in the senior division. Torreys earned 5 first-place awards, 4 second-place awards, and 2 third-place awards. 

The top projects are then recommended for Grand Award consideration, and the most experienced judges choose just four recipients and four runners-up. 

Grand Award Winner: Physical Sciences
Oliver Cottrell ’30

In addition to the category and Grand Awards, over 100 professional societies and other organizations present specialty awards. Students are also chosen to compete in other competitions.

California Science and Engineering Fair Qualified Students
Invited to compete at the online state fair in April.
  • Jonathan Brough ’30 
  • Oliver Cottrell ’30
  • Gavin Ni ’25

Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge
Only the top 10% of middle schooler fair winners are invited to compete.
Oliver Cottrell ’30

Office of Naval Research
  • Sophia Zhou
  • Nicholas Ong

Torrey Pines Docent Society
Mia Bi

DRS Daylight Solutions
Award for Optical Physics and Engineering (Jr. Division, Second Place)
Nicholas Ong

The Mikey Award
In honor of Ron Mikkelson
Oliver Cottrell ’30


Grant Alexander ’30
First Place in Animal Sciences
“Effect of High Temperature on Honeypot Ants”

Mia Bi ’29 
Second Place in Earth and Environmental Sciences 
“Is Your Sunscreen Really Safe for the Ocean?”

Lachlan Brooks ’30
Second Place in Engineering: Energy, Materials, and Transport 
“Cello Bow Grip Guide”

Jonathan Brough ’30 
First Place in Chemistry
“Electrolytes in Drinks”

Oliver Cottrell ’30
First Place in Engineering: Electrical, Mechanical, and Robotics
“Automatic Hockey Puck Passer”

Jun Huh ’29 
First Place in Computer Science and Systems Software
“Determining Water Consumption Based On AI”

Nicholas Ong ’29
Third Place in Engineering: Electrical, Mechanical, and Robotics
“Binary Communication Using Lasers”

Ayelet Ron ’30 
Second Place in Engineering: Electrical, Mechanical, and Robotics
“LED Headboard”

Sophia Zhou ’28
Third Place in Computer Science and Systems Software
“Password Cracking”

Ryan Zhuang ’30
Second Place in Engineering: Electrical, Mechanical, and Robotics
“Testing Performance of a Rotating Solar Panel versus a Flat Solar Panel”

Gavin Ni ’25 
First Place in Cellular and Molecular Biology
“Effects of a Stress-protective Protein from Tardigrade on Stress-resistance and Aging of Yeast”

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