STEMfest Explain It! Video Competition Rules

The deadline for the 2014 competition has passed.
Come to STEMfest on October 18 to find out who our winners are!

Aspiring young filmmakers are invited to participate in the 5th annual STEMfest Video Competition.

Your video…

  • Must explain a concept, topic, idea, phenomena, or theory in any of the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math). Feel free to be creative. No ‘talking head’ videos, please. Don’t just tell us – show us!
  • Should be between 2 – 4 minutes long.
  • Must contain only your own or your group’s original work – including music, sound effects, photography. See Resource Guide for a list of creative tools you can use.
  • Can be any production type including but not limited to live action video, animation, or animated photo essay. (An animated photo essay is a series of still images that have been strung together using video editing software and set to music, narration, or both.)
  • Must not be boring.

Have Fun!

Entry Guidelines - Read Thoroughly!

  1. The STEMfest Video Competition is open to current K-12 students ages 5 – 18. (Note: Adult sponsors must submit on behalf of students under 13.)
  2. Videos can be submitted by individuals or teams.
  3. Videos submitted by teams of five or more students must enter the large group category, rather than the individual/small group category. The large group category encompasses groups of any age or grade level. The total team count does not include adult sponsors or students appearing as extras in the film.
  4. All entries must be posted in the STEMfest Video 2014 studio on MashPlant Studio in order to be judged. See How to Join the Studio below. All studio requests must be verified before you can post. Verification may take up to 24 hours to complete. Request access to MashPlant Studio by October 5, 2014.
  5. All entries, team or individual, must have an adult sponsor. The sponsor must be 21 years or older and can be a parent, teacher, or other responsible adult. The role of the sponsor is as follows:
    • Serve as the primary contact.
    • Collect and submit parent permission slips for all team members and other students who appear in the video.
    • Confirm that the project follows the contest rules and contains only original work created by the team or individual.
    • If students are under 13 years of age, the sponsor must join the MashPlant Studio in order to post the video for judging.  
  6. All entries must be submitted by the adult sponsor to MashPlant Studio on or before October 1, 2014 at noon Central Standard Time.
  7. The adult sponsor must complete a STEMfest Video Competition entry form. Click here for the entry form. A link to your video must be included on the entry form.
  8. ALL students who appear in the video MUST have signed parental permission. The adult sponsor is responsible for ensuring that permission slips are completed and mailed or faxed (815-753-0666) to STEM Outreach by noon Central Standard Time on October 8, 2014 for the video to be eligible.
  9. Video Format: Your video should be submitted as an MP4 or other supported formats: avi, mov, mpeg, mpg, or wmv. The recommended screen resolution is 640 x 480.
  10. Please follow digital safety guidelines. The videos will be viewable online. Please do not include the last names of any students involved in the production of the video in the title or credits. Complete names are required on the entry form only.

How to Join the Studio at MashPlant Studio

  1. Follow the link to request access to the studio:

    (Please note: May take 24 hours for access to be approved. You must have a valid email address to sign-up. MashPlant Studio is a free studio space for students. Please read the Rules for Students and Privacy Policy.)

    Adult sponsors must register on behalf of students under 13.

  2. Use Studio Access Code ExplainIt14 to request access to the STEMfest Video 2014 studio. Only users with the access code can join the studio. All requests will be reviewed and approved by the studio administrator. Be sure to request access by October 5th to ensure access by the video submission deadline on October 8th at noon.
    Access Code: ExplainIt14

  3. After your request is approved, you will have access to the STEMfest Video 2014 studio and you can upload your video.


Entries will be divided into groups based on age/grade level and the size of the group. A small group consists of 4 or fewer students. Large groups have 4 or more students playing a central role. Categories are

  • Individual/Small Group: K-2
  • Individual/Small Group: 3-5
  • Individual/Small Group: 6-8
  • Individual/Small Group: 9-12
  • Large Group

Judging will be based on the following criteria.

  • Accuracy – Was your explanation correct?
  • Creativity/Originality
  • Technical Quality (i.e. focused images, clear sound, interesting graphics)
  • Overall Effectiveness


Winners will be announced and publicly screened on October 18th at STEMfest. Additional honors may be awarded at the judges’ discretion. 

STEM SaturdaysIndividuals and Small Groups 

  • 1st place winner(s) will receive one voucher for the entry toward their choice of STEM Saturday classes in the amount of $125.00 and one t-shirt each.
  • 2nd place winner(s) will receive a voucher toward for the entry their choice of STEM Saturday classes in the amount of $80.00 and one t-shirt each.
  • 3rd place winner(s) will receive a voucher for the entry toward their choice of STEM Saturday classes in the amount of $40.00 and one t-shirt each.

Large Groups

  • 1st place winners will receive a voucher towards their choice of STEM programming (e.g. demo shows or hands-on workshops) in the amount of $400.00.
  • 2nd place winners will receive a voucher towards their choice of STEM programming (e.g. demo shows or hands-on workshops) in the amount of $300.00.
  • 3rd place winners will receive a voucher towards their choice of STEM programming (e.g. demo shows or hands-on workshops) in the amount of $200.00. 

Workshop topics and dates will be provided by STEM Outreach and vary based on the prize bestowed.

Prizes will also be awarded in for the Fan Favorite (voted on by STEMfest 2014 attendees) and Best of Show (to the student or group who shows the most passion for STEM).

Please note that prizes described apply to winners located within a 60 mile radius of NIU. Winners who reside outside of a 60 mile radius will be awarded prizes of comprable value. STEM Outreach will evaluate these on a case-by-case basis.

Resources and Tools

You don’t have the right software to create your video? Don’t worry! Here is a list of just a few easy and free tools you can use to create your video. There are lots more available online.

Video/Animated Slideshow Editing


  • Aviary – Online music creator
  • Audacity – Record and mix your own music or voice
  • Hobnox – Create your own high energy tracks
  • JamStudio – Create your own music online


  • SAM Animation – Watch the intro video on this one. There are some great ideas!!
  • Scratch – Create and program your own animation

Mailing Address for Video Submissions

STEMfest Video Competition
C/O STEM Outreach
Lowden Hall 307
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Additional Questions?

Contact Kristin Brynteson at or (815) 753-0928 or Debbie Pixton at or (815) 753-1898.