Media Mindfulness Blog

Science Fair: The Series

Science Fair: The Series

I enjoyed science classes when I was a kid, especially chemistry, but as someone who didn't really get along with math in most forms, I focused more on word-oriented learning. I never participated in a science fair and, according to this series, it seems like I might have missed out.


Following up on the 2018 documentary produced by National Geographic, SCIENCE FAIR is now a series on Disney+. The three-episode series debuts on National Geographic on December 10 and on Disney+ December 15. Science geeks, unite!


The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) represents a dream come true for all those students who use their smarts to find solutions to humanity's needs. The series follows several students as they vie for a place at the 2022 meeting of ISEF and the possibility of being awarded the prestigious title of "best in fair."


Some of these kids have been dreaming of going to ISEF since they were six years old. Some have been mechanical tinkerers as they grew up, always building something. Some are now seniors in high school and this is their last chance to qualify for a coveted spot at the big event. What they all possess is a drive to succeed and the desire to make the world a better place one idea at a time. Of course, the $75,000 prize for best in fair is also a great motivator as is being able include ISEF participant on a college application.


The students come from all over the world, including Memory from Zimbabwe. She's researching a way to make alternate fuel for her country from the abundant flora that grows there. There's also Endrick and Savdiel from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Representatives of the USA come from all over the country, joining the millions of students from around the globe competing for the limited spots at ISEF.



Memory Bvungo, excited to work on her science fair project, carries lab equipment to her desk at her school in Harare, Zimbabwe.

© 2023 National Geographic/Karen Gaytán. All Rights Reserved. 



What I found most fascinating about the journey of these students was their reasons for choosing the projects they did. The boys from Puerto Rico decided to research ways to scan wounds to catch possible infection earlier when one of their grandfathers died of sepsis from an infected wound. One girl's family are farmers and her project focused on ways to get better crop yields. A student from Florida works on a more sustainable way to create electric vehicles. The creativity all the students exhibit gives me hope for our future.




Robert Sansone (R) participates in a peer-mentoring research session in Fort Pierce, Fla.  © 2023 National Geographic/Karen Gaytán. All Rights Reserved. 




Legendary from the Science Fair film is Dr. Serena McCalla and her students from Jericho High School in Jericho, NY. The series chooses to continue following her drive to push students to be the best they can be. Anyone who knows anything about the desire to get to ISEF quakes in their boots thinking about the kids from Jericho.



Dr. Serena McCalla gives presentation feedback to student Rebecca Cho a day before an ISEF-qualifying science fair, at Jericho High School in Jericho. NY.

 © 2023 National Geographic/Karen Gaytán. All Rights Reserved. 



I applaud all these students and any person who desires to succeed in life and works toward that goal. However, one thing the series fails to do is to tell us anything about the featured students other than their pursuit of ISEF. Success, while desirable, isn't the be all and end all of life. There are other concerns like family, faith, and friends. Teachers can push their kids hard. The students sometimes pressure themselves too much in their quest for a spot at ISEF. I'm not saying that a teacher striving for excellence in her students is bad thing. It's not. All I'm saying is that kids need to have a healthy balance in life, have time for play, for the significant people in their lives, and for growth spiritually and emotionally as they approach adulthood. Perhaps the students we see in the series have all those things in spades. The audience is left to guess at how they balance the lives outside of science. 


That being said, Science Fair: The Series is an enjoyable watch and just might inspire some child to pursue a creative idea that could lead our world into a brighter future.








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