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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)

Mainly a US and Canadian trope as it's schools in those countries that have this characteristic event, although there's always Eagleland Osmosis to consider.

Examples of Science Fair include:


  • A lot of the action in Meet the Robinsons revolves around the results of a science fair, which has the obligatory volcano. And a few more interesting projects, such as fire ants, musical frogs and a brain scanner.
  • The Strangers with Candy movie is centered on a science fair. Serious Business for everyone involved.

 She's a Fig Neutron! Got her sexy science T-shirt on!

  • In Juno, a vague reference to this trope is the best Mark can do at articulating why he wants to be an adoptive dad.
  • There's a science fair near the beginning of Real Genius; Mitch has a homemade ultraviolet laser amongst everyone else's more standard projects.
  • In The Manhattan Project, Paul says he's going to submit a project about raising a generation of hamsters in the dark to see if it improves their hearing. It's just a cover story for the real project—his atomic bomb. It's at the "45th National Science Fair" where Dr. Mathewson and The Government catch up to him.
  • In Osmosis Jones, Frank once made himself ill by eating shellfish that a kid's science fair project had allegedly, but not really, rendered safe for human consumption.


  • 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.

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 and 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.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Bloom County, Oliver causes a panic in a science fair when he constructs a working nuclear weapon, scraping several thousand fluorescent wristwatches for the radioactive material.
  • In Peanuts, Lucy uses Linus and his blanket for her science project, and wins a ribbon for it.


  • 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.

Video Games

  • 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.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, "Buster's Guide to Goofing Off", was focused entirely on Buster waiting until the last minute to build a model volcano for the school science fair. Typical in every way possible, and on purpose.
  • An episode of King of the Hill in which Connie's cousin from Los Angeles, amazingly enough, managed to persuade Bobby to build a crystal meth lab for their science project. She told him it was a "candy machine". Seriously. Bobby must not watch MTV or Law & Order.
  • Multiple times on The Simpsons, although they've only based a whole episode around it once. In that one, Lisa does a project on humiliating Bart after he destroyed her original project, a giant steroid-grown tomato intended to cure world hunger. Science fairs were also mentioned at least in passing in Lisa's segment of the Rashomon episode, where she had a grammar robot, and the Treehouse of Horror episode where she created a miniature civilization.
  • In The Adventures of Sam and Max Freelance Police, the titular characters meet The Geek at a science fair. Her project is a black hole. That's right — a black hole.
  • Recess does something similar, where it's established that only Gretchen ever bothers to do anything but volcano models. This time, they hook up all their volcanoes to go off at once in a ring of fire, and end up winning. Gretchen loses because another girl steals her project, resulting in automatic disqualification.
  • Dexter's Laboratory had a science fair involved in Mandark's attempt to get revenge on Dexter for getting Deedee to destroy Mandark's lab in an earlier episode.
  • Kim Possible features a science fair with assigned partners. Kim and Insufferable Genius Justine build an elaborate portal to another dimension that conveniently catches a monster created by Kim's Arch Enemy (and inconveiently returns it during the fair.) Ron and Monique put a volcano together at the last minute.
  • Phineas and Ferb features a science fair, where our heroes help Baljeet build a portal to Mars. While Dr. Doofenshmirtz recollects building elaborate ray guns, but always being beaten by the baking soda volcano, even when he switched to a poetry contest. So he enters the fair with a huge baking soda volcano, which naturally doesn't work out for him. The winner is a girl who constructed a set of Mechanical Arms ... to build a baking soda volcano.
  • An episode of All Grown Up uses the "parent taking control of the project" scenario. Tommy got help from Stu, his dad, on building an automatic sock sorter, but was disqualified after people found out that Stu had done the bulk of the construction after turning the project into something else entirely.
  • Done in Arthur. Curiously enough, no one did a volcano or solar system project, although Book Dumb Binky made a project called "Rocks Near School".
  • The twin sisters of Johnny Test win their school's science fairs every time. If the show wants them to find a science fair challenging, they'll be competing against adults, not classmates.
  • In a subversion, Velma on What's New, Scooby Doo? was shown bringing a project with which she'd already won a big science contest to NASA, so its experiment can be carried out in orbit. No, it wasn't a volcano; it's to study how earthworms move about in zero-g.
  • Exaggerated in one episode of Chaotic, where every project but one was a volcano.
  • The 1980s version of The Little Rascals had an episode titled "Science Fair and Foul", in which Buckwheat built a voice-activated TV Head Robot to compete with Waldo's ice cream machine.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Lobo reveals that his High School Science Project 'fragged' the rest of his planet. Since there was nobody left to contest it, he gave himself an 'A' for it.
  • The kids on Transformers Prime had to get ready for one of these. Ratchet "helped" them to the extent that their projects were unrecognizable and failures- the model of the planet had several moons, the volcano was made of metal and dangerous, and the homemade bike tried to transform and exploded.
  • How on earth is there no example for Jimmy Neutron? Cindy sues Jimmy and gets him banned from the science fair because his genius makes him win every time. He shows up anyway and gets a Nobel Prize from an invention he didn't get to send in, which almost kills his dad, the principal and the Nobel Prize guy. And Sheen had a very hungry lizard.

  Principal: Okay! First prize goes to all the inventions that helped stop Jimmy's death machine!