Science Takes Off at Mountain Avenue

First grader Ivy Hiller with her candy and toothpick structure science project. Photos provided by Brian HILLER
First grader Ivy Hiller with her candy and toothpick structure science project. Photos provided by Brian HILLER


“Take Off with Science!” was the theme this year for the annual Science Fun Fair at Mountain Avenue Elementary School, held on Feb. 2. Nearly 150 students from TK through sixth grades showcased their innovation and creativity through their science projects. Another 60 sixth graders competed in teams in “The Great Paper Roller Coaster Engineering Challenge” by building and competing to keep a marble rolling in a paper marble run for the longest time.

Roller coaster project.

Families also enjoyed the science fair displays that included copper wire and battery trains, paper airplane launcher, baking soda and vinegar balloons, science art projects, building marshmallow and toothpick engineering structures, air cannon, pH testing of acids and bases, catapults, the Mars rover, and a Van de Graaff generator for a literal shocking hair-raising experience. Many volunteers helped at the science fair. The Crescenta Valley High School Falkon Robotics Team 589 also thrilled the elementary school students with a robot that could throw basketballs into awaiting arms.

Mountain Avenue Principal Jaclyn Scott said, “The Mountain Avenue Science Fun Fair is an annual tradition that brings the Bear Community together to celebrate science. We love the focus on the inquiry process and love that students engage in the completion of scientific experiments. Each year, I continue to be impressed with the dedication that students have in learning about science. We loved having the robotics team from CVHS display their robot ­– it was a highlight! We also loved having scientists from JPL bring the Mars rover. It’s these types of partnerships that create such a wonderful event for our school. I am incredibly appreciative of our school PTA and the parent volunteers that work tirelessly to make the annual science fair happen seamlessly.”

Mountain Avenue Science Fun Fair Co-Chair Brian Hiller said, “Exposing the Mountain Avenue students to what older kids and adults do with science, like robotics or the Mars rover, is hugely beneficial. It also gives the CVHS students and JPL employees a chance to feel pride in the great work they do. Just giving the kids a chance to experiment and play with materials feeds their curiosity as well. I was blown away by the interest in the science fair! Principal Scott, my co-chair Meena Arunachalam, and everyone else who helped put it on make me happy to have my kids at such a great school.”

Third grader Josie Hiller works on her science project with baking soda and balloons.

He added, “I enjoy giving back to the school that does so much for my kids. I enjoyed how much fun the experiments at the science fair were for the kids. I loved the robotics team and how excited it got the younger students.”

Mountain Avenue Science Fun Fair Co-Chair Meena Arunachalam said, “Science fairs offer a platform to unleash curiosity and develop a spark of thoughts, igniting passion for science. Science and the community benefit from each other. Communities that support science get uplifted with innovation and well-being. We are blessed to live in a community that supports student education and science; a big thanks to Principal Scott and PTA President Ericka Stockwell.

“I have been a co-chair for the past six years for the Mountain Avenue PTA Science Fun Fair, and every year I have been thrilled to see our students’ curiosity and enthusiasm. The best moment of the sequence of events would be when the project boards start pouring into the auditorium and hundreds of student projects are lined up on rows of tables. The family night at the Science Fun Fair is another favorite time of mine – to see the kids enjoy hands-on activities, playing with robots brought by Falkon Team 589, and lying on stage for the Mars rover to roll over their backs.”

The Mountain Avenue sixth graders also competed as teams on paper roller coaster projects by building a marble run with the goal to keep a marble rolling the longest. A top prize was also awarded for the “Best Theme” for the paper roller coasters.

Hiller said, “Meena’s son’s team won the roller coaster award for the longest run. We had lots of awards for different themes, but my favorite were the Eras Tour theme and the Volcano themed coasters.”

Sixth-grader Vivek Arunachalam created an affordable organic water filter for his science project.

Vivek Arunachalam with the water filters he built. Photo provided by Meena ARUNACHALAM

“My inspiration for this project is from my observation during my stay in a rural town in India,” Arunachalam said. “According to UNEP, 40% of our water sources, that is about 75,000 bodies of water across 89 countries, are polluted. California, the Golden State that we live in, also has this problem. More than 370 of the approximately 7,400 water systems regulated by the state are contaminated above the maximum levels for a range of substances known to be dangerous to humans, according to a 2022 report by the California State Auditor. I have created two filter setups: one portable and another one stationary that can filter our toxic substances using inexpensive organic materials that are abundantly available. I have been participating in all Mountain Avenue Science Fun Fairs from kindergarten through sixth grade. I am graduating this year and will be missing this next year.”


The Mountain Avenue Science Fair has been an annual event that many students and families enjoy. The science fair gives students a way to present their knowledge in science and innovation. Sixth graders also have fun with their roller coaster projects that they build with their team. The activities like the paper airplane launcher and trivia at the Science Fair also bring excitement to the attendees.