I was excited and honored to be invited to the gala celebration of the first annual White House Student Film Festival last Friday afternoon. Created to showcase the possibilities of technology in the classroom -- and to raise awareness for the ConnectEd initiative -- the White House received more than 2500 entries, from kids around the country, in just three months.
There was a palpable hum of anticipation in the air as the students and their parents and teachers came in. President Obama introduced the afternoon with a rousing speech about the value of creativity and STEM education, and the importance of ensuring that the majority of American schools are connected and have access to the teacher training and tech tools they need to be competitive. On hand to celebrate and introduce the films were science luminaries Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, along with actor and member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Kal Penn, and then special taped introductions by Michelle Obama and Conan O'Brien.
Ultimately, just 16 official selections were screened in the White House's East Room during the event. The films covered the spectrum from humorous to compelling, from innovative to thrilling -- a diverse tapestry of videos that showed what kids can do when given the resources to be creative. I've selected just a few to share below, but you can see the playlist of the 16 winners on YouTube, as well as a playlist of 128 honorable mentions.
Get a taste of the experiences of a group of high school students from Chula Vista, California, as they work on a documentary to combat gun violence.
First grade students from Silver Springs, Maryland, are the stars of this adorable piece.
High school filmmaker Kira Bursky from Michigan made this sweet short film about how technology bridges cultural differences and connects people.
Eight-year-olds Miles and Gabby show off their afterschool program in New York, SciTech Kids, and the experiments they conduct with the help of their 3D printer.
In Pennsylvania, high school junior Daniel Nemroff created this digital-effects-laden vision of what the classroom of the future could look like.
Congratulations to all the kids who poured their hearts into making incredible films for this landmark festival; here's hoping this will become an ongoing annual event!