On March 19, Inverse spent the day with some of the most impressive and intelligent teenage scientists from all around New York. Hundreds of students met at the New York Hall of Science for the 2018 New York State Science and Engineering Fair.

If you’re picturing projects involving papier-mâché volcanoes and potato batteries, think again. These 17-year-olds are studying subjects that are far beyond most of our comprehension and discovering scientific breakthroughs that would make any college professor jealous. They’re, by every definition of the word, geniuses.

The science fair is a battlefield with the coveted top prize of entry into this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which is being held (disappointingly) in Pittsburgh.

To kick off the day, they had to present their projects to a series of judges, who are all experts in their respective fields. If you developed a new method for studying sea anemone, you’d likely be judged by a professional marine biologist with a Ph.D. and 30 years of experience in the field. Most of the students reported that talking with these pros was “enlightening” and “incredibly scary.”

A handful of chosen badasses then compete in the Lightning Round, which is just as epic as it sounds. One by one, they entered a room of new judges and rapid-fire their presentations. From this round, only a select few would be awarded tickets to ISEF. Additionally and somewhat surprisingly, there were two other students who did not get invited to the lightning round but got spots at ISEF because their projects were so spectacular the judges didn’t need to see them present a second time.

Though the scientific work done by these students is constantly evolving with the times, it’s pretty comforting to see that at its core, science fairs are still the same awesome, lo-fi event that you remember. The projects are presented face-to-face on the classic tri-fold boards. There are no holograms or complex multimedia displays; it’s still just a big chunk of cardboard, complete with hand-glued pictures, graphs, hypotheses, and, every so often, a Lego robot. Simple science fair stuff.

Listening to these high school teens talk about their interesting and elaborate projects is incredible. The titles alone were enough to make your head spin. We compiled some of our favorites from the day into a supercut that ultimately proves the world is not, as many believe it to be, totally screwed.