It's Elemental Winner Featured in Hartford Courant

April 24, 2011 - Hartford CT

Berlin High Junior Takes Home $5,000 Grant In National Video Contest

One Of 11 Winners In Chemical Heritage Foundation's It's Elemental Competition


By KEN BYRON, kbyron@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

BERLIN —By the time he began 11th grade at Berlin High School last fall, Daniyal Khan had become an experienced video producer, making 20 of them. But most of his work was done for fun or for classes at the high school.

His opportunity for wider exposure came in a video contest sponsored by a national organization that promotes the sciences. The competition drew nearly 700 entries from around the country.

To Khan's surprise, his video was one of the top pieces in the contest.

"I wanted to see how I matched up with other students from around the country," he said. "It was a good opportunity to show my work outside of Berlin and Connecticut. But I thought I would be lucky to get into the top 20."

His piece, "Discovering Hydrogen," was one of 11 winners in the Chemical Heritage Foundation's It's Elemental contest and won a $5,000 grant that will help Berlin High School start a program on environmental sustainability.

For the contest, students chose an element from the periodic table and made a video about it.

Gigi Naglak, the foundation's outreach coordinator, said students had to include basic information about the element and its uses but also historical background, such as who discovered it and the circumstances surrounding its discovery. The videos had to be three to five minutes long, she said.

Khan chose hydrogen, although it was not his first choice. He wanted either oxygen or carbon, but they were already taken.

"I wanted oxygen or carbon because you can do something more flashy with them," he said. "You can do experiments with them that have a good visual element. I wanted an easily recognized element that gave me options for content in the video."

Khan's family is from Pakistan, and he said he was introduced to video production while they were living in England.

Morgan Hanna, a chemistry teacher at the high school, told Khan about the contest. Hanna said he thought of Khan because of his background in science and experience with video production.

"If you can find an activity that a student chooses to do on their own and shows the relevancy of what they are learning in class — that's the most important thing you can do as a teacher," Hanna said. "I try to find things that will interest a student and let them run with it, and I knew Dan would run with this."

In addition to wider exposure, Khan said he was attracted by the challenge. Its format was also something he prefers.

"The documentary style is more my thing. It's reality, factual and relatively straightforward," Khan said.

The high school offers video production classes and Khan used the school's cameras. But editing, animation and other production work was done on his laptop and desktop computers at home.

Naglak said the videos were judged on their presentation of scientific and historical information and technical quality.

"Daniyal scored highly across all the categories. He created a high-quality video with a good script," she said. "One of the judges said he has potential as the host of a science-based television show, kind of like a Discovery Channel show."

Khan has also been active in the high school's bicycling club and an upcoming project is to produce a video highlighting the cycling activities at the school.

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