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Video contest aims to spark STEM interest

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  The Higher Education Policy Commission is catering to West Virginia's millennials this year, transforming its traditional statewide science poster contest into a high-tech video competition.

This is the first video competition to be held in conjunction with the Science, Technology and Research (STaR) Symposium, which will celebrate this year with the theme of "The Evolution of Energy: From Scarcity to Abundance."

The fifth biennial STaR Symposium will be held in Morgantown in October, and not only will the state's college students be eligible to enter the competition, but qualifying videos will be used to help teach kindergarten through 12th-grade science classes across the state as well, said Lindsey Emery of West Virginia University's Office of Research and Economic Development.

"First and foremost, students will gain exposure to STEM research in a way that appeals to them -- in a creative video made by someone their age," Emery said. "It's a little more engaging than reading a textbook."

The HEPC, along with the state Department of Education, is working to link the state's science and technology majors with elementary, middle school and high school students in an attempt to pique interest in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Emery said.

Just last week, WVU hosted a Sustainable Energy Engineering Challenge Camp for high school students, where they created projects like solar-powered pizza ovens, and starting Monday, the West Virginia Youth Science Camp kicks off in Ripley.

"Communicating science is an important part of any scientist's life, whether it's getting a job, talking to the media, or advocating for research funding," said Jan Taylor, director of research for the HEPC's Division of Science and Research.

Of those videos submitted by the Sept. 8 deadline, 20 finalists will be selected to present at the STaR Symposium, and awards will be provided for first place, also known as the STEMMY award, as well as second place in undergraduate and graduate categories.

The videos may cover any area of STEM research.

"We are challenging students to earn the STEMMY award for the best three-minute video that explains their research to a nonscientist," Taylor said.

The new approach to the competition will allow students to be involved throughout the whole process, by voting, interacting and having a chance to offer input, Emery said.

"Just being able to communicate about these lessons and react to these videos ... When [students] feel engaged, they feel valued," Emery said.

The STaR Symposium will be held at the Waterfront Place Hotel October 22-23 and is open to students, faculty, researchers, and business and industry representatives interested in energy use, energy conservation and research in West Virginia.

Guest speakers at the event include David Pogue, a renowned science author and New York Times columnist.

For more information about the competition guidelines, visit www.wvresearch.org">www.wvresearch.org. Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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