A Bassett High School team competing among 150 area schools won an honorable mention at the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s 67th Science and Engineering Fair in March by demonstrating how discarded medicine damages local bodies of water.

The Bassett High trio – senior Hector Rios and juniors Brianna Rodriguez and Daniela Leal – decided to highlight the impact of toxins in the L.A. River with the help of science teacher Jamila Daulatzai and online research.

“Earning honorable mention and putting Bassett’s name up there right next to boarding schools that were working with colleges is a good pathway for our school and future,” Rios said. “It gives us something to strive for toward greater successes.”

The students narrowed their focus on potential pollutants to medicine, which ends up in local bodies of water after being disposed of through toilets or sinks.

The group carried out its experiment, “Taste of Their Own Medicine,” by testing the effects of over-the-counter medicine and aspirin on groups of marigold plants and blackworms. The students conducted a two-month experiment on marigolds, which grow near the L.A. River, and did a separate experiment on blackworms, which help to clean water, in 40-minute test groups. They used unaltered water as a control group for both experiments.

They found that the blackworms instantly died in the medicine mixture of Pepto-Bismol and water; the marigolds grew less than the control group that received clean water.

“It was really insightful on how our community is affecting the whole environment but we’re not realizing it fully,” Rios said.

The students recommended that expired and unused medicine should be turned in to local pharmacies that could dispose of the medicine and recycle containers, according to Food and Drug Administration regulations. The students noticed the L.A. County judges asked detailed questions about their experiment, particularly one who was a pharmacist.

“When I found out we won honorable mention, I felt proud and surprised at the same time,” Leal said. “We were going against other groups doing similar experiments and I thought they were doing something really amazing.”

The Bassett High team spent about five months conducting its experiment, including growing the plants. The students competed in Bassett Unified’s second annual District Science and Engineering Fair at the end of February, and advanced to the L.A. county competition along with other Bassett Unified teams.

“Our District provides opportunities for our students to explore their ideas and strengthen their talents by competing in competitions against other area schools,” Superintendent Dr. Alex Rojas said. “Congratulations to our Bassett High team for being among one of the best teams in the county.”


042717_BASSETT_SCIENG1: Bassett High School’s trio – senior Hector Rios (right) and juniors Brianna Rodriguez (left) and Daniela Leal (not pictured) – won honorable mention with its project, “Taste of Their Own Medicine” at the 67th Los Angeles County Office of Education Science and Engineering Fair.