I have four children of my own, the eldest already in college studying atmospheric sciences and the next one thinking she would like to go into chemistry or physics. Even though I have a 50% track record of creating future scientists so far, there are many reasons to engage young people in science other than to turn them into scientists. The future needs people who can think scientifically, whether science becomes their career or not.

A little bit of external motivation through competitions such as Science Olympiad and science fairs can go a long way for the so inclined student. With the online world and the availability of video cameras, why not use these to help kids share their interest in science?

So today, I feature for you three science video contests for kids, one just completed (SciCast in the UK), one encouraging kids to explain science in 60 seconds (60 Second Science in Australia) , and twin contests of my own design encouraging kids and teens to read about science (Kids Read Science and Teens Read Science). These three contests are featured in order of deadlines for 2011.

SciCast: Short Films, Real Science

This contest is run by Jonathan Sanderson (@jjsanderson on twitter) of StoryCog and sponsored by the Institute of Physics and others. The catch line is "Discover your film-making talent. Share your science knowledge. Entertain the world." From this it seems we will create the next generation of science TV and film producers! What a fantastic goal!


According to their website, SciCast is four things:

  • "A competition to get children, young people, teachers, parents, science communicators and science/engineering/technology professionals all making short films about practical science.
  • A web resource of all those movies, for the use and amusement of everyone involved, and particularly for schools.
  • A platform to help other science engagement projects share their work with a wider audience.
  • and, a discussion about whose responsibility it is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with entertaining science-related material."

The rules are simple:

  • "Students are encouraged to create a film related to any branch of Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths that is no longer than 2 1/2 minutes long.
  • It must be original work including music, sound effects and still photographs, etc.
  • And finally, it must NOT BE BORING!"

Videos are entered in multiple categories and I suggest you take a look at the extensive winners' list here . Since the contest is completed for this year, enjoy the winners and gear up to enter next year. Just watch their site for more details. Carin and I will also keep you posted!

While there are multiple winners in various categories, I am sharing this one about Refraction by Dennis Harrison, Winner of Best Demonstration 2011 as well as the IOP Best Physics Film .

(embedding was not a possibility, but at least this gives you a reason to go to the website and check things out, which I highly recommend.)

Kids Read Science and Teens Read Science

In Spring 2010, I had an idea to encourage middle- and high-school aged kids to read more science. Due to a previously established, shared interested in science literacy and reading advocacy, I teamed with Jeff Shaumeyer of Scienticity.net (@scienticity on twitter), the science-education outreach project of Ars Hermeneutica, Limited, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

The idea that emerged was a contest challenging kids, aged 8 through 12, and teens, aged 13 through 18, to read a book about science during their summer school break and make a short video reviewing their selection. We ask contestants to post their videos on their own YouTube account—their videos overtly remain theirs—and submit a link to enter the contest. The contest ends after the school year begins; we chose the night of the Autumnal Equinox as a suitably scientific deadline.

In addition to the primary goal of the contests, reading a science book and telling about it, the contest structure serves the subordinate goal of creating a collection of peer-review videos to help other kids and teens identify books that they might enjoy reading. Science literacy is always our serious goal but we can have lots of fun getting there.

The simple rules:

  1. Choose a non-fiction book about nature, science, engineering, or math, or about people who work or worked in those fields. The book should help you understand more about what science is and how it works. Textbooks are not acceptable choices. If you need suggestions it's good to ask a science teacher or librarian for ideas.
  2. Read your book.
  3. Make a video about your book. The video must be less than 5 minutes long, and you must give the name of the book, the name of the author, and reasons why you would or would not recommend the book to your friends.
  4. Post the video online. We'd prefer that you post it to your own account on YouTube.com and tag it with "KidsReadScience2011" or "TeensReadScience2011".
  5. Fill out our official online submission form, http://KidsReadScience.org/submission, or http://TeensReadScience.org/submission so we can find your video and so we know how to contact you if you win one of our fabulous prizes.
  6. Do all this before the deadline: 11pm (CDT) on 23 September 2011.

That's all it takes to enter! Anyone anywhere may submit one book video entry in English, although prize distribution is currently restricted to locations in the US and its territories. Videos will be judged by our panel of scientists, writers, and librarians, and their decisions about awarding prizes are final.

We also have the rules in the long form with all the details, but these cover the basics. You can also connect with us on Facebook at Kids Read Science and Teens Read Science for more details and updates.

Read about last year's winners and sponsors here.

All of our entries were well thought out, enjoyable and judging was tough as the contestants were very articulate and creative.

From last year's entries, here is a charming video about Tornadoes

60 Second Science

Traveling across the world to Australia (but how far is it, really, in terms of the internet?) we find a contest that encourages kids (and their teachers) to make videos explaining science in 60 seconds! Carin and I (among others) are honored to be judges for this competition. Following an unprecedented number of entries in an Australian school video competition in 2010, the competition has been re-launched as a global competition for 2011, with entry categories for both students and ordinary citizens from any country. This Citizen Science Education project invites citizens and students world-wide to create and upload a 60 second video which explains a science concept or phenomena. Entry is free, with cash prizes being awarded by a prestigious panel of International Scientists, film-makers and multimedia experts. The 2010 competition saw an impressive 350 videos uploaded!

The 2010 Secondary School Winner was a stunning production about Gravity. Christopher from the Friends' School in TAS has created a 3D animated introduction to gravity. (Scroll down the page a bit to view it!)

Carin and I challenge everyone under 18 years old to do some research, read a science book and turn on that video camera to show us how much 'science' you've got and possibly win prizes and recognition for your knowledge and talent!

SciCast image courtesy of Jonathan Sanderson
Kids Read Science image CC licensed by flickr user adwriter
60 Second Science image courtesy of 60 second science and Brendan O'Brien