The Day I Saved the Science Fair

An essay by Daniela Villanueva, as provided by Alyssa N. Vaughn
Art provided by Errow Collins

I’d like to tell you about the first time I ever took out a superhero. I was eleven. The afternoon it all began, I sat at my desk with my arms crossed, scowling at my science textbook. I was the only person in the classroom still seated. The rest of the students crowded around the windows of Room 416, P.S. 122, pressing their noses against the glass. The teacher, Ms. Xu, vainly attempted to get our class to follow the correct emergency procedure, calling to them from the doorway to follow the evacuation plan.

No one listened. No amount of practice drills or teacher training could keep the kids in Room 416 from watching Ultra Lass battle her arch-nemesis The Jade Dragon, darting around the buildings and right past P.S. 122, firing her Ultra Bolts through the sky!

I grumbled to myself. Everyone else was weirdly proud of living in a city that had its own superhero, but Ultra Lass and The Jade Dragon faced off almost once every other week, and they almost always seemed to fight right in the middle of the most interesting lessons, completely messing up my day. I was constantly annoyed that all of my classmates weren’t less enthusiastic about seeing Ultra Lass so often. My family moved there at the beginning of the school year, and at first it had been cool. By the third time we had had to file down into the basement instead of finishing our biome dioramas, I was tired of Ultra Lass and her constant battling. It was weird that the kids who had lived here their whole lives still got excited every time she swooped past the windows of our classroom, and I was the only one disappointed that class would be interrupted.

That day had been the worst. My whole class was getting ready for the Science Fair, and I had been in the middle of a very important experiment. I had almost gotten the results I needed to design the final stage of my project. Ms. Xu had been supervising me while I carefully constructed an electric circuit, making sure the different parts stayed in place with black tape. I had carefully plugged my power source into an outlet, making sure not to touch any bare wires. Just as I flipped the switch and activated my circuit, an Ultra Bolt hit the power lines outside the school. Aside from making all the lights and computers in the building blink and flash before going dark, it sent electricity surging through the circuit, burning out many of the components and sending a wisp of black smoke up from the control unit.

My experiment. Was. Ruined.


Art for "The Day I Saved the Science Fair"

Suddenly, the sky through the high windows of the gym became dark, and the sounds of not-too-distant crackles of lightning and the evil cackles of The Jade Dragon could be heard coming from outside.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2018 collection.

Dr. Daniela Villanueva earned her first PhD in Electrical Engineering from MIT at 14, her second PhD in Computer Science from the University of Texas at 16, and is currently working on her third PhD in Chemistry from an undisclosed, maximum-security location under close supervision from various government agencies. Dr. Villanueva is best known for her discovery of the rare-earth element praesidium, which neutralizes most super-powered individuals’ abilities and equipment, and as the founder of non-profit organization “Yes She Can,” which works to bring young women of color more opportunities to participate in Science, Technology, and Engineering activities.

Alyssa N. Vaughn lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, son, and two dogs. She is a former software developer, a current high school teacher, a part-time writer and a full-time geek. When she’s not reviewing comics for or video games for ThatVideoGameBlog, she’s working on her own science fiction projects. More accurately, she’s procrastinating working on them and tweeting about her baby’s farts and the weird things her mom says when they watch the Food network. You can read these tweets @msalyssaenvy or see pictures of her kid on Instagram @alyssaenvy.

Errow is a comic artist and illustrator with a predilection towards mashing the surreal with the familiar. They pay their time to developing worlds not quite like our own with their fiancee and pushing the queer agenda. They probably left a candle burning somewhere. More of their work can be found at

“The Day I Saved the Science Fair” is © 2018 Alyssa N. Vaughn
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Errow Collins

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