From spelling champs to rocket scientists, Santa Cruz City Schools students show they have the right stuff.

Spelling Champs

The county’s best spellers faced off at UCSC on March 22nd. Top finishers—and headed to the California State Spelling Bee in May—are Mia Thacker and Claire Grishaw-Jones, both 7th graders at Mission Hill Middle School. Other district students placing among the finalists were Kai Tamkun, 6th grader and also from Mission Hill, and Alex Condotti, 5th grader from Westlake Elementary School.

Science Fair Stars

County Science Fair winners were announced at a ceremony on March 17th. Santa Cruz High senior Shamik Mascharak was selected for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his project “Fingerprint with Genipin,” entered in the Chemistry Division.

Division winners in the Junior and Senior groups headed to the California State Science from district schools include:

1st place

Botany: Asta Davidsdottir, Mission Hill Middle School, “Albino Plants”

Chemistry: Shamik Mascharak, Santa Cruz High School, “Fingerprint with Genipin”

Zoology: Zoe Altenberg, Mission Hill Middle School, “Demonstrating Mendelian”

Medicine & Health: Grace Kumaishi, Mission Hill Middle School, “Take a Deep Breath”

Physics: Monique Luster, Mission Hill Middle School, “Which Web Withstands Weights?”

Physics: Chandan Lodha, Santa Cruz High School, “Solar Thermal Energy”

2nd Place

Engineering: Calum Johnson, Mission Hill Middle School, “Perfect Propeller Performance”

Medicine & Health: Haley Burrous, Branciforte Middle School, “Hand Washing: Why is it Important”

Physics: Alanna Williams, Mission Hill Middle School, “What Makes a Whirlpool”

3rd Place

Chemistry: Nathan Zenner, Benjamin Chapman and Bundit Hongmanee, Soquel High School, “Salty Solutions/Chemistry

Environmental Science: Holly Borg, Mission Hill Middle School, “Save the Birds, Man”

Microbiology: Alexandra Venable, Mission Hill Middle School, “White Line Disease”

4th Place

Physics: Aiyana Alaimo, Reesie Netro, Branciforte Middle School, “Pendulum Variables”

Elementary & Primary Division winners from our schools include:

1st Place

Botany: Angelea Pogson and Haruku Fukurai, Westlake Elementary, “Effects of CO2 on Plant Growth”

Engineering: Michelle Park, Westlake Elementary, “Experiment with Voltaic Energy”

Microbiology: Sabrina Hockett and Fiona Grishaw-Jones, Westlake Elementary, “Yeastie Beasties”

2nd Place

Zoology: Oliver Price, DeLaveaga Elementary, “Music, Mice, Maze”

3rd Place

Chemistry: Rachel Martin and Diego Diaz-Lundquist, DeLaveaga Elementary, “Chemical Reaction Agent”

4th Place

Chemistry: Ian Pillsbury and Ian Loustalot, DeLaveaga Elementary, “Cake Catastrophe”

Environmental Science: Alex Condotti, Westlake Elementary, “Oil & Feathers Don’t Mix”
Our students were also prominent winners of the special sponsored awards:

US Navy Awards

Chandan Lodha and Shamik Mascharak, Santa Cruz High School

Plantronics Award

Chandan Lodha (Santa Cruz HS), Monique Iuster (Mission Hill MS), Nicholas Soe


taert (Westlake), Emile Laroche (Westlake) and Michelle Park (Westlake)


Nicholas Soetaert with project “Strung Out Science”

Seagate Outstanding Projects

Asta Davidsdotter (Mission Hill MS), Grace Kumaishi (Mission Hill MS), Monique Iuster (Mission Hill MS), Chandan Lodha (Santa Cruz HS) and Zoe Altenberg (Mission Hill MS)

Monique Iuster Accepts Her Award