RACINE - A student team from McKinley Middle School has won a national C-Span documentary-making contest, beating out more than 1,000 other middle and high school teams from across the country.
The eighth-grade documentary team of 13-year-old Madison Richards, 14-year-old Samantha Noll and 14-year-old Lauren Nixon found out about the win Monday and it will be announced officially today at an award ceremony at McKinley, 2340 Mohr Ave.
"It's a big accomplishment," Lauren said. "They told us we won the grand prize and we just freaked out. It was so crazy."
The girls are the first all-female team and first middle school team to win the grand prize in the competition, C-Span's 2010 StudentCam contest in which student teams made five- to eight-minute documentaries about the country's strengths or challenges. The McKinley team made their video about the potential of nuclear energy to meet energy needs in the next 20 years, a time when experts say America's energy demands will exceed the energy available, said the team's advisor, Larry Jozwik.
He said the video shows a switch from fear of nuclear energy to favoring it. To reach that documentary conclusion, the students interviewed experts from around the world using Internet video chat programs, visited a power plant, had other students act out nuclear fission and talked to Racine residents about the topic at October's Party on the Pavement city festival.
The girls started work in September and did not finish until early January. They did everything for the project themselves from coming up with the idea and shooting video to editing the video and adding music, narration and more.
The girls said they never expected to win, even when they were all mysteriously called to the school office Monday.
"I thought it had something to do with C-Span but the hall monitor said, ‘The principal wants to talk to you about a new project,'" Madison said. When the girls were there, Principal Ann Yehle had to take a phone call that ended up being the C-Span representative with the grand prize news.
For the win, the three students will split $5,000 and McKinley will get $1,000 for video equipment, Jozwik said.
The same student team placed first among middle school teams in last year's C-Span contest with a documentary on freshwater sustainability. The girls plan to keep making documentaries but won't be able to enter the contest again as a school team because they'll attend different high schools next year.