A school event in which students (usually the entire class, or something to that extent) set up tables in a large, central location such as a cafeteria or auditorium and show off what's supposed to be a wide variety of science-related projects. Someone nearly always builds a volcano, a model of the solar system, or both. No one really knows why it's always those two specifically, but both seem to show up ridiculously often, to the point where it looks like that's all anyone ever does.
In terms of relevance and importance to a show, they can be anywhere from the entire focus of an episode to a minor side plot to simply being mentioned in passing.
Because You Suck
, plots related to science fairs will often (though certainly not always) be based around the Book Dumb
hero getting the project done at the last minute. Another option is the hero getting one of his/her parents to "help" on the project and then having the project get commandeered by the parent. The Teen Genius
is likely to strive to create a wonder that will turn science on its head (but will still lose to the kid with the volcano
, possibly thanks to a Disastrous Demonstration
that soaks, singes, or humiliates the principal and/or event judges).
Mainly a US and Canadian trope as it's schools in those countries that have this characteristic event, although there's always Eagleland Osmosis
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- Atomic Robo is called upon to judge one in the 2011 Free Comic Book Day issue. Both the solar system and a volcano are in evidence. Dr. Dinosaur wants to steal something else entirely.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- The second Captain Underpants Book.
- In the Babysitters Club book Jessi's Babysitter, the babysitters get involved in assisting with the elementary school science fair. Represented among the entries are the classic solar system model and volcano. Other clients do such projects as "Barbie on the moon" and the effect of music on plant growth.
- The events of Dinoverse are set off by one of these, when Bertram builds what he doesn't know is a time machine for a demonstration.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer mentions one in passing when Cordelia complains about it being mandatory that year, although the science fair itself is never actually shown.
- In one of the weirder episode of Drake & Josh, Josh and his girlfriend compete by building functional death rays. For a high school science fair. It was a really weird episode, specially since nobody seemed to find this weird or unlikely or frightening, so Rule of Funny doesn't even apply …
- CSI has an episode were a science fair volcano is a clue in a case. Nick, Greg and Catherine all reminisce about making a similar project in their youth, and how it should have won. Grissom however, did win his school science fair for a maze with beetles.
- Tesla High in Eureka has quite possibly the coolest (and most competitive) science fair in television. It helps that the kids' parents are all hotshot scientists at an uber-secret government facility; past experience with it has taught Deputy Jo Lupo to attend in full SWAT gear.
- In one episode of Leverage, Sophie hijacks one of these in order to turn it into a musical as part of a con.
Whidmark Fowler: It might seem kind of crazy
Or even just plain gross
To sing in praise of bread mold
And wonder how it grows...
- The Cosby Show had one of the Huxtable girls have a model of the solar system for her display and was totally upstaged by her friend's sound controlled machines. The Huxtable girl jealously accuses of her friend of cheating since her father is a engineer, but Cliff coaxes her into admitting that her own exhibit was really lame and her friend deserved to win.
- Flashback in Scrubs when Turk gets a 3rd prize award for science fair as a kid and delivers this humorous dialogue:
Turk: But I didn't even enter the contest!
Award Giver: Shhh, And smile for the camera.
- One episode of The Red Green Show has Red insisting on "helping" with Harold's entry in the local fair. The show being what it is, (what's left of) Red and Harold stagger back into the Possum Lodge and report it all ended with multiple explosions and the first-prize trophy embedded in Stinky Peterson's body. The girl who actually won had a fire extinguisher exhibit.
- The New Adventures Of Beans Baxter: In "Beans' Under the Weather", Scooter invents weather-making machine for a science fair, and UGLI attempts to use it for their own ends.
- The Secret World of Alex Mack had a science fair that wasn't sponsored by a school, but by the Paradise Valley Chemical Plant. Alex's older sister Annie entered a very impressive project resembling a laser, however Alex witnessed another competitor attempting to sabotage it by dropping it on the ground. Alex used her telekinetic powers to save it, but got in trouble when the plant's GC-161 alarms went off, potentially incriminating her.
- Phil of the Future used a variant where the kids had to create their own invention. Phil and Keely enter a voice-activated pudding dispenser. The conflict arises when Phil sees all the kids using things like batteries or gas to power their inventions and uses a milk engine on his for flavor. Phil's father Lloyd panics, explaining that milk engines weren't invented until 2075 after oil ran out, so while they'll common back home in 2121 they're an impossibility in 2004, and this puts them at risk at being found out as time-travelers because Phil didn't invent the Milk Engine and has no proof he designed it. Phil ends up sabotaging his own project, so his rival wins with a simple portable changing room.
- Dinosaurs episode "Power Erupts" starts with Robbie making a volcano for his science fair project, the twist is that the concept is about using the volcano's heat to power houses. The real plot kicks in when it stands that this concept might actually work in real life, bringing down the wrath of WESAYSO power division who don't want their monopoly challenged.
- The music video for Motion City Soundtrack's Her Words Destroyed My Planet features the members of the band entering an elementary school science fair with a robot, virtual reality simulation, a cloning machine, the "theory of everything", and a giant volcano model. They all get first-place ribbons and trophies, after which some of the kids incinerate them with laser blasters.
- Portal 2 has the remains of an old science fair in the old abandoned Aperture Science labs. In its saner days Aperture Labs apparently sponsored science competitions for its employees' children as part of Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. The experiments on display are actually a Foreshadowing for stuff you encounter later in the game.
- All but one of the experiments is a potato battery. The remaining one is, naturally, a baking soda volcano. Wheatley, somewhat creepily, suggests that this was probably the child of working-class parents.
- One of the projects is also signed as made by "Chell", which incidentally is the name of the main character.
- An episode of Bob and George, in which Dr. Cossack's daughter builds a self-aware robot and actually ends up losing to a papier-mâché volcano! She lived in the Soviet Union, and since they couldn't use the usual method of consulting the preserved head of Josef Stalin (Dr. Wily stole it), they gave it to the other guy because they thought a boy winning would be better for the country.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: the chapter "Two Strange Girls" focuses on a school science fair and a string of sabotages against the various projects. Kat gets annoyed that people are ignoring her studies of protein crystals and are more interested in the anti-gravity device she built. No volcanoes this time, though.
- A recent Omake of Girl Genius is a "Cinderella" parody for sparks, so the
prince twin princes are throwing a science fair, and there is a volcano.
- The school science fair in Urgent Transformation Crisis involved students meddling with one another's DNA but somehow managed to avoid the obligatory volcano.
- Scrambled Eggs has a running gag in which Quint always loses the science fair to his Vietnamese stepbrother Tuan.