NNPS-TV promotes STEM initiative with video expertise

JLabNNPS-TV Producer Nik Long records at Jefferson Lab for the Elementary Design Challenge intro video.
Jim Anklam photo

When it comes to getting the word out about important Newport News Public Schools initiatives, videos made for television and the Internet are a very effective tool. They are one of the best ways to show the ideas behind any program and the good work and successes that are achieved.

The NNPS-TV production team lends its expertise to many such projects, and for the past few years, STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - has been something schools everywhere have been focusing on.

NNPS has been promoting STEM education with modern learning tools and STEM-based activities. To show parents and the public the innovative ways students learn about these topics, the NNPS-TV production team has been enlisted to cover egg drops, video chats with astronauts, robot races, underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) competitions, and kayak-based marine science adventures.

The TV production team consists of Station Manager Jim Anklam, Producer Nik Long, and Production Specialist Aaron Moore. They employ certain tactics to best cover these scenarios, including using underwater cameras or small cameras that can be mounted onto various objects, like water-bottle rocket launch pads or a data-collecting buoy adrift in the Chesapeake Bay. They can even fly a drone with a mounted camera to record aerial shots.

Griffon shootNNPS-TV production team records Busch Gardens Vice President of Engineering Larry Giles atop the dive coaster Griffon.
Tami Byron photo

"We use quite a bit of state-of-the-art technology to capture the visuals and sounds to tell our stories," said Anklam.

Anklam noted how A/V equipment and media have become more compact and affordable, enabling the team to create videos in ways they couldn't in the past.

Long said, “We don’t have fancy equipment to look cool.  The story isn’t about us as videographers.  Each piece of video gear we purchase is used to highlight our talented teachers and how they make learning come alive for our students every day."

Moore, who edits many of the STEM videos, says much of the STEM subject matter actually lends itself to creative editing.

"Even though most STEM events are technical and scientific," he said, "it really allows for more artistic creativity."

Moore can use creative fonts and visuals and add special effects that make parts of the videos seem more dramatic or futuristic. He created the sci-fi movie look for "Learning Alongside Robots," which was a "School View" episode.

Besides robots taking over an elementary school, NNPS-TV covers STEM activities that are part of daily learning or after-school events. The team has covered many STEM nights and community days, the Discovery STEM Academy groundbreaking and opening, and Heritage High School's Governor's STEM Academy. They've highlighted various STEM professionals in NNPS, and in 2011 created an eye-catching science overview video called "Transforming Science."

“We need to tell the story from the point of view of our students and teachers, and pull viewers in by sharing new perspectives and angles," said Long. 

"If students are learning underwater, our camera needs to go underwater with them.  If students are kayaking along a river, our cameras need to follow them.  If robots are traveling across classroom floors, we need to capture that unique angle," he continued.

"While our students are learning how to use cutting-edge technology, we’re educating viewers about the countless possibilities in Newport News Public Schools,” said Long.

One of the production team's bigger projects is creating intro videos for six Engineering Design Challenges each year. An Engineering Design Challenge is a day-long STEM exercise in which four-person teams from each NNPS elementary or middle school compete. The TV team has made 12 intro videos so far. In addition to making the opening video, they also cover the event to report on it.

For the Engineering Design Challenges, the production team works closely with the STEM team to portray the background information and the challenge correctly. Shooting these intro videos has brought them to the Powhatan Indian Village at Jamestown Settlement, inside the Low Energy Recirculator Facility at Jefferson Lab, and even to the top of a 205-foot roller coaster at Busch Gardens.

The team always ensures the video is visually appealing to young students and good quality. A spokesperson from the EDC sponsor appears on camera, and the team gives them instructions and pointers.

"We even supplement our own footage with video supplied by the STEM event sponsor, adding historical or unique visuals," said Moore.

All of these videos are part of the many shows that the team produces to air on NNPS-TV (Cox Channel 47/Verizon FiOS Channel 17 ). There is a live feed of the channel available to watch online as well. Most of these videos are also available on demand on YouTube, the NNPS-TV Video site and on our Roku channel.

STEM at NNPS video playlist: