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'Science Fair' Documentary Showcases the Real-Life Genius of Teenage Scientists

In science fairs all over the world, students dream big and work hard, hoping to impress with their creative hypotheses. In National Geographic Documentary Films' "Science Fair," filmmakers Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster showcase the journeys of nine young scientists striving to win big at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles. 

In the film, students from around the globe are shown working on the projects they will present at ISEF. The documentary tracks a variety of young scientists, including Kashfia, who is one of the only Muslim students at an enormous school in South Dakota and takes an inventive approach to studying the human brain; Myllena Braz de Silva and Gabriel de Moura Martins, two teens from Ceará, an impoverished region of Brazil, who undertake research to help stop the spread of the Zika virus that affected many people in their hometown; and Robbie, a passionate teen who's obsessed with number theory and Kanye West. 

The film also shows the people who supported these students all the way to ISEF, including Serena McCalla, an educator and scientist who leads the science research program at Jericho High School in New York. [Photos: Students Use NASA Satellite to Study Mars]

Kashfia, one of the only Muslim students at a large school in South Dakota, works hard to get her innovative project all the way to ISEF in the brand-new documentary "Science Fair." (Image credit: FUSION)

Costantini, who was a science-fair competitor as a teen, perfectly captures the depth of these high school students' emotions and showcases their diversity. From science fairs around the world, 1,700 students from 78 countries won the opportunity to compete at ISEF, and every student works to be named Best in Fair. 

Serena McCalla, an educator and scientist who leads Jericho High School's science research program, stands in front of a student's project board at the International Science and Engineering Fair. (Image credit: Univision)

The documentary also reveals the surprising twists and turns of life as a teen scientist. Contestants spend late nights sorting through data and practicing speeches for the judges, and even get together for a very teenage night of dancing and fun at the ISEF dance. 

"Science Fair," which won audience awards at SXSW and the Sundance Film Festival, premieres in theaters today (Sept. 14).

Email Chelsea Gohd at or follow her @chelsea_gohd. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea Gohd joined as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music, singing, playing guitar and performing with her band Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.