Optimus Prime making a NASA spin-off video of his own.

NASA’s Transformative Video Contest

Optimus Prime making a NASA spin-off video of his own.
Optimus Prime making a NASA spin-off video of his own, Illustration by Sopheaktra Dahn

Students must pick which technology they wish to make a video about through NASA’s annual Spinoff publication which focuses on the successes of the previous year. Students have the opportunity this year to make videos about everything from energy-efficient systems which eliminate icing dangers for UAVs, to bacteria that provide cleanup for oil spills.

An Optimus Prime Spinoff trophy will be awarded for winning individual submissions and group submissions will get plaques with the individuals names. Also, Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime, will be there along with NASA VIPs and other celebrities who have yet to be named.

In addition, some new prizes this year will be free trips to Space Camp as well as free passes to the Kenn


edy Visitor Center Complex and possible scholarships for exemplary work. Last year the contest was held in Colorado, but the location has changed to Kennedy Space Center this year because it gives NASA more flexibility to expand the content of the awards ceremony NASA has also built a new website dedicated to this contest that is easy to navigate.

“NASA is busy compiling a repository of NASA pictures and videos that the students can access without having to worry about infringing someone’s copyright,” said Mitchell. “We are actually partnering with the US Patent & Trademark Office to provide content on patents, copyright and trademark issues.”

The bar is being raised for high school students this year, so it is necessary to demonstrate an adequate understanding of how the technology is being used by NASA and the spinoff partner alike. 

“I would advise anyone thinking of entering to focus on understanding the spinoff technology and coming up with a creative way to present the story,” said Mitchell.

Also, do not get too hung-up on creative special effects, as many submissions last year tried with different degrees of success.

Hasbro, the company that own the rights to TRANSFORMERS, is supporting this program because they and NASA share similar ideals.

“There are a lot of common values that connect the character Optimus Prime with NASA,” said the director of the contest Darryl Mitchell. “Both are focused on honor, integrity, knowledge, the pursuit of excellence and looking toward a brighter future.” 

Hasbro is also supporting this contest because it not only educates students, but encourages creativity as well. The goal of this program is to help students understand the benefits of the different NASA technologies that benefit them in their daily lives.

“One of the primary goals of the contest is to raise awareness,” said Mitchell, “of how NASA spin-off technologies impact our daily lives.”

Last year, students in grades three through eight were allowed to compete, and this year the contest administrators are adding high school students into the running.

Approximately 190 students in thirty-one different states submitted seventy-six different videos last year. The videos themselves were three to five minutes in length.

This year, the deadline for registration is January 3, 2012 with January 17, 2012 being the last day for video submissions. Voting for the winner of this contest falls to the public, and then NASA evaluators will select and announce the winners in the first week of March.

Judging will be similar to other years in that it will be a two step process. First, the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite submission online. Then, the top five videos in each category will advance through the final round where a NASA panel will rank them and pick the winners.

Judging for the winners is based upon three categories: understanding, persuasiveness, and originality. Once the winners are announced, they will receive unique prizes. In each grade category, the winning submissions group leader and parent will be sponsored by NASA to attend the Optimus Prime Spinoff Award ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center.

The winning videos for grades three through five were created by Juliana Sanchez, Samantha Herrod, Isaliz Gonzalez, and Grace Romano, who are four students at the Union Park Elementary school in Orlando, Florida. The video was based on a story from NASA’s Spinoff 2009 publication called “Fabrics Protect Sensitive Skin from UV Rays.” It is about how NASA technology used in clothing helps to protect the wearer’s skin against exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays.

The winner for grades six through eight sixth was based on the 2009 Spinoff story originating from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.  which was  how “Star-Mapping Tools Enable Tracking of Endangered Animals.” It is about how a star-mapping algorithm used on the Hubble Space Telescope is helping scientists track endangered animals.

For more information go to http://ipp.gsfc.nasa.gov/optimus/ 


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