Watching Christina Costantini and Darren Foster’s documentary Science Fair brought back a lot of memories. Well, it brought back one memory of coming in first place in the earth sciences category at my junior high science fair. I came in first because I was the only one to enter in the earth sciences competition and I remember doing the project at the last minute. While my win invigorated my passion for always procrastinating, Science Fair will open your eyes to the state of science in our high schools around the world and the good hands we’re in with these bright, intelligent teens.
Costantini and Foster follow a handful of students from around the world, but mostly America, as they compete against their peers to join the select few at the 2017 ISEF (Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair) in Los Angeles. The first thing that will strike you is that teens with an innate aptitude toward science are like people with mutant powers. It can possess any person, from any walk of life, at any time.
“…teens with an innate aptitude toward science are like people with mutant powers…”
The film’s subject covers a good cross-section of students. From Louisville, Harsha and Adam are friends developing a stethoscope for your smartphone. Also, from Lousiville is Anjiah, the youngest student who skipped a few grades and whose passion and non-stop introspection makes her the funniest subject. They would be considered your “average” students.
From Brookings High School comes Kashfia, a midwestern Muslim girl. Brookings is one of those schools that focuses on sports over all else. Kashfia wants to enter the state science fair but needs a teacher as adult supervision. In part due to the school’s lack of budget for a science lab, none of the science teachers will supervise Kashfia. The only teach willing to do it is the Brookings football coach.
Then there’s Robbie, who is bored with school and as a result, is failing in every science class. While his grades are abysmal, Robbie has competed in ISEF the two years prior. It seems he’s a genius at computer engineering and hopes his success at ISEF will translate into college acceptance.
“…worth watching if anything just to learn something new.”
As the “I” will note, the competition is international. From Germany is Ivo, who perfected the flying wing aircraft design to correct its infamous instability and lack of maneuverability. Also is Myllena, who lives in a small rural village in Brazil. Her town has been hit hard by the Zika virus, and she’s done extensive research in finding an inoculation for the disease.
Finally, the spotlight goes to New York science teacher, Dr. Serena McCalla. She lives, eats, and breathes teaching sciences and has developed an effective method for presenting at science fairs. To say she’s passionate about is an understatement and to say she’s strict would also be an understatement. She has very little time for herself outside her students.
Structurally, Science Fair is sound. Its a cross-section of human-interest stories is inspiring. The subjects are engaging and worth rooting for. It looks in depth at the processes of competing in a science fair. And the revelation of winners is exciting and nail-biting. It will definitely delight anyone interested in the subject of the science fair and the need for more interest in science…along with music, physical education, etc. Even if science is not your thing, Science Fair still worth watching if anything just to learn something new.
Science Fair (2018) Directed by Christina Costantini and Darren Foster. Science Fair screened at the 2018 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
4 out of 5 stars