STEM Student Wins Video Contest 

By Kathy Knotts 

A 7th grade Anne Arundel County student has won a top spot in an international environmental video competition. Arnav Bali of Edgewater is a student at Central Middle School. His video about e-waste earned him a first-place prize of $600 in the 10th annual World of 7 Billion video contest sponsored by Population Connection. 

 Over 3,000 students in grades 6 through 12 from 44 countries and 49 U.S. states and territories participated in the competition. The videos explored population growth as it relates to one of three challenges: Promoting Environmental Justice, Strengthening Global Health, and Reimagining Industrial Systems. 

Bali created a 60-second video about the dumping of Western electronic waste in developing countries, for the contest’s international middle school division. The topic was personal to him. “I don’t think it’s fair that the waste goes there when many of those countries are already struggling,” he says. Bali was born in Germany, but has lived in Maryland since he was very young. Central Middle is a STEM school and Bali shared that, as such, “we do a lot of field experiences and go on a lot of field trips. On a recent (virtual) trip, we learned about chemicals in shampoo products and about microplastics and pollution.”  

He and his mom found the contest one day while searching online for opportunities. He said, “I knew right away that I wanted to enter this contest.” He is an avid filmmaker and is partial to creating educational videos focused on the environment. Arnav, who recently purchased a green screen, decided to use the it for the first time on his World of 7 Billion video submission. He is interested in re-building and reviving electronics. “Two years ago, our computer broke and I decided to try and fix it.” YouTube tutorials have been a source of information and inspiration for him. And there’s also trial and error. “When I mess something up, I have to learn how to fix it,” he said.  

Given his interests, he decided to focus his video on e-waste. But his filmmaking covers a variety of topics. 

“I’ve made many other informative videos,” says Bali. His prior films include a book trailer, an Earth Day film highlighting the threats to the bee population and how the bee population impacts the environment, and a video about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., all of which won him awards. He ran into some challenges creating his e-waste video, namely “finding information because many websites don’t have exact statistics on the burden of e-waste.” The 60-second time limit was also a challenge and required several script re-writes. His advice for future contest participants is, “to just starting working on it [your video] because then you’ll figure things out, slowly, and hopefully make a good video and learn more about your topic.” 

He plans to invest part of his prize money and is debating purchasing more film equipment such as a better camera. Bali shared that his video was actually filmed on his mom’s phone using the Filmic Pro app, which he highly recommends. His mother is a great source of inspiration “because she is always the one who helps me make my videos, my sister, too!”  

In addition to educating viewers about their chosen topic and how it relates to human population growth, students had to include at least one idea for a sustainable solution. The winning pieces were on topics as varied as food deserts, climate migrants, maternal health, water purification and lab-grown meat. “The students show a great deal of concern for the well-being of all people and the ecosystems that support us. Their videos illustrate some really inventive solutions with significant research and thought,” said John Seager, president of Population Connection. 

A panel of 60 judges—including college and high-school educators, filmmakers and topic experts—selected the winners.  

“Unlike in prior years, many students were working on their videos from home, making collaboration more difficult. Even so, they rose to the challenge, and their resourcefulness and creativity really show,” said Pam Wasserman, Population Connection’s Senior Vice President for Education.  

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