Science Fair is a joyous affair. This film (directed by the award-winners Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster) showcases an international competition where it truly appears to be an honor just to be nominated. “If you’re there to just win the prize, you’re missing the point of Science Fair,” says Robbie, one of the enthusiastic and effusive high school students featured in Science Fair.
Preparing for Prizes at Science Fair
This Sundance award-winning feature-length documentary profiles a dozen or so high school students as they prepare their science projects for entry into their local science fair. The top presentations from these competitions then qualify for the International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), held in 2017 in Los Angeles — “Hollywood” as the kids call it. The film soars as it takes you inside the preparation, the excitement of participation, and the anxiety of being judged.
To say that these kids are bright is an understatement. Throughout the film, I found myself wondering if the judges were actually qualified to discern the validity and comparative value of the arcane, complex student projects. Do they really understand the nuances found in those detailed presentation boards and in the oral presentations from the often shy students?
For example, three American students want to revolutionize how stethoscopes are used worldwide. Their work includes building the diagnostic instrument with the use of a 3D printer and connecting it to a database. Two Brazilian students are looking for a cure for the Zika virus. Another reinvents a flying single wing aircraft, a prototype long ago abandoned by the aeronautical field. Female students and teachers compete valiantly on equal terms with their peers, and their spirits are inspirational.
One of the emotional highlights of Science Fair is the dance party at the international event. The camera immerses us in the center of the high voltage pent-up energy of the brilliant yet awkward scholars. The kids seem to feed off the DJ’s music, their nerves, and the energy of being surrounded by their intellectual tribe.
Dedication and Discovery
Science Fair profiles students who clearly win from the earliest stages with their remarkable projects. These students have the honor of participating at the international level and then going on to Ivy League universities. It is inspiring to witness their hard work, focus, and dedication. The film is full of hope as we witness the next generation’s love of science–and of discovery.