The upcoming NatGeo docuseries Science Fair: The Series follows a select group of students from across the globe as they compete for a spot in the International Science and Engineering Fair, which they consider their Olympics, and is the pinnacle of their years of hard work and research. As one student states in the opening montage, “If someone thinks that high school science fairs are just a bunch of volcanoes, they’ve never been to a science fair.”
Each student has been conducting college-level (and beyond) research for years, and they all have the same goal: to shape the future and make the world a better place.
Their projects are fascinating and range from identifying fast-progressing cancer cells, to teen suicide prevention, to eliminating microalgae in bodies of water, to designing a more sustainable electric car battery.
Many projects are personal to the students, like Memory from Zimbabwe, whose project is about converting marsh reeds to biofuel to combat the fuel crisis in her country. Or Endrick and Savidel from Puerto Rico, who created a wound treatment device to prevent sepsis, inspired by Endrick’s grandfather who died from the infection. Or Carlos from Colorado, who endeavors to increase fungus to boost crop yield as he comes from a farming family.
Notably highlighted are the teachers, who are there every step of the journey to guide their kids through research and presentation practice. One such teacher is Dr. Serena McCalla, a teacher from Jericho, NY, whose team has won so many competitions that families move from other countries so their kids can learn from her. Every teacher noted in the show embodies the best of the profession and the love they have for their students shines through in every moment.
Viewers will find themselves rooting for each student featured, especially the seniors who have one last chance to place at ISEF and get into colleges including Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and MIT. However, they’re competing against the best of the best, including one student from Turkey who solved the Broken Pick-up Sticks math problem first proposed over 150 years ago and another whom Time Magazine named their “Kid of the Year” in 2018 and who created a device to detect opioid addiction. But don’t count the underdog out just yet; viewers are in for a treat when the winner of the big prize is revealed.
The series does a great job of investing the audience into these students’ lives as they take on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of this potentially life-changing experience. It showcases talent, ingenuity, intelligence, and the human spirit as these students tackle very real and very pressing challenges facing our planet. They prove the future is now and how with a little gumption and a lot of smarts, they might just change the world for the better.
All three episodes of Science Fair: The Series premiere on NatGeo on December 10 and will be available to stream on Hulu and Disney+ on December 11.