Calling All Students: Create an Animation Focused on Smart Technologies

Submit a short video by 1 October

11 August 2015

Want to make learning about technology fun for young people? Then animate it. That’s the idea behind the IEEE Spark Animation Competition, which invites students ages 12 to 18 to create a 30-second video about “smart technologies.”

The competition is a spin-off of IEEE Spark, an online magazine launched in 2012 to get high school students interested in engineering, computing, and technology. “IEEE doesn’t have any other outlet to reach students under the age of 18,” says IEEE Senior Member Liz Burd, chair of the magazine’s advisory group. “IEEE Spark lets us engage students and their parents and encourages them to think about technology careers.”

One of last year’s issues covered animation, inspiring Educational Activities to create a competition around that topic. One of this year’s issues will focus on smart cars; another will look at smart homes.


Entries are being accepted now until 1 October. The video must be less than 50 megabytes and free of copyrighted material. Teams of up to three students can participate, and each team must have a mentor who is an IEEE member. Any IEEE member can serve as a team mentor, including student or graduate student members and members of the IEEE Young Professionals group.

Two prizes will be awarded. One prize will go to the video that receives the most votes by the general public once the entries are posted online in mid-October. The other winner will be selected by a team of IEEE judges who will look at criteria such as how well the topic is depicted, the techniques used, and the video’s entertainment value. Each winning team will receive iPad minis, a congratulatory letter to their schools, and T-shirts. Their animations will also be promoted on the IEEE Spark website along with the names of the students and their mentors.

Each team may submit only one video, which may rely on anything from hand-drawn cartoons to computer-generated special effects. And the videos may not contain the students’ names or the names of their schools, so as to avoid favoritism on the part of the voters and judges.


Aside from the animation itself, the biggest challenge for the teams will be to convey complex ideas in less than 30 seconds.

“The contest is a great opportunity for contestants to convey complicated topics so that they can be better understood and appreciated,” says Elizabeth Kurzawa, educational outreach program manager for IEEE Educational Activities in Piscataway, N.J., which is organizing the competition. “Animation can be a powerful teaching tool.”

She adds, “We want students to have fun, find something that excites them, and come up with creative ways of conveying it so other people will be just as enthusiastic about it as they are.”

Last year’s first Spark animation competition attracted more than 40 entries from around the world. Those teams took a variety of approaches in their submissions, which could convey the themes of any previous Spark issues, including nanotechnology, music, and gaming. Some made flip books and videotaped the book’s turning pages, and one used stop-motion animation—a cinematographic technique whereby the camera is repeatedly stopped and started to give animated figures the impression of movement. “I was very impressed with the creativity,” says Kurzawa.


Educational Activities is depending on members to help encourage their own children and grandchildren to enter the competition. Last year’s winners were both father-and-son pairings. But you don’t have to look to people in your immediate household to find a talented student, Kurzawa says. “We hope members will also look to friends, local school districts, and other groups for entries.”

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