At least three Indian American kids from across the country were among the 18 winners announced by Population Connection May 8 in its international “World of 7 Billion” video contest.
The victors topped the more than 5,000 students in grades 6 through 12 from 50 countries and 44 U.S. states and territories who participated in the competition.
The videos explored population growth as it relates to one of three challenges: Feeding 10 Billion, Preventing Pollution, and Advancing Girls and Women.
First- and second-place winners were named in three categories each for middle school and high school levels.
The three high school first-place winners each received a $1,000 cash prize, while the three second-place winners each received $500. Six honorable mentions each received $250.
Middle school students who claimed first and second place received $500 and $250, respectively.
Ayush Iyer of Lancaster, Pa., came in first in the Feeding 10 Billion middle school category for the video titled, "Feeding 10 Billion People on Earth."
In the Advancing Women and Girls high school category, Ramya Iyer of Omaha, Neb., was the first-place winner. Iyer’s video was titled, “Child Marriage: There Is a Solution.”
Arjun Agarwal of Lawrenceville, N.J., for the video “Eating Up by Thinking Up,” was the top winner in the high school Feeding 10 Billion category.
Ayush is an eighth grader at Manheim Township Middle School. He heard about the contest from his Excel (gifted) teacher and created his video as an independent project outside of his school work, his bio said.
He chose Feeding 10 Billion as the subject of his video because he cares deeply about global hunger, and says if he “could solve one world problem, that would be it.” He’s written multiple essays, research papers, and presentations on the subject before he entered the World of 7 Billion contest, Population Connection added.
Ayush was aware of population and its impact, but says that his research for the video made him think more deeply about the future implications for people, the planet, and the demands on our food systems, it said.
He is also a passionate advocate for vegetarianism. He’s raised awareness about the ecological benefits of switching to a plant-based diet by making speeches and producing films for his fellow students. Ayush likes using PowToon and other animation styles to create his videos.
Ramya Iyer is in the ninth grade at Westside High School. The World of 7 Billion contest was forwarded to her in an email, and without any prior filmmaking experience she submitted a winning video, her bio said.
She said it was often difficult to read the stories and experiences of child brides, but it also motivated her to translate their hardship into her video and inspire people to take action. Ramya herself was particularly struck by the fact that over 1 billion women will have been child brides by 2050, according to Population Connection.
As for the population connection, Ramya shared that she never thought about the link between human numbers and women and girls, but it became clearly apparent after doing research for her video, it said.
She recognized that the “symbolism should be strong” in her video because she wanted to represent child brides everywhere but knew she couldn’t “show every child that has gone through this.”
The four faceless girls in her film represent the many millions of girls married off before age 18 worldwide and to accurately portray them, Ramya studied the cultures and proper dress of child brides from different countries, it added.
Arjun Agarwal, a ninth grader at Lawrence High School, found out about the contest through involvement in his school’s STEM club. He felt inspired to tackle the challenge of Feeding 10 Billion with his film because he saw hunger firsthand while traveling in India with his parents, his bio said.
His father teaches about nutrition, so he has some prior knowledge on the topic, but shared that with this project his “eyes were opened to population’s impacts” and how population growth connects to other global issues, it said.
Arjun loves movies and is an experienced filmmaker himself. After learning all about movie production at a summer camp in California, he’s entered multiple student video contests, winning awards for his films about George Washington and the Hubble Telescope, among others, according to his bio on the Population Connection website.
In addition to educating viewers about their chosen topic and how it relates to human population growth, students in the contest had to include at least one idea for a sustainable solution.
"These aren't just great young filmmakers," said John Seager, president of Population Connection, in a statement. "All of the winners are inspirational voices for a sustainable and compassionate future."
The contest was organized and promoted during the 2017-18 school year by Population Education, a program of Population Connection. A panel of 61 judges including college and high school educators, filmmakers and topic experts selected the winners.
Population Connection is a national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates for progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by earth's resources.