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WOUB earns Telly Awards for educational website

WOUB honored with awards in education, copywriting and humor

WOUB earned three bronze Telly Awards for their work with "Spaced Out: A Cosmic Scene," an educational website. 

The website is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics project that is funded by eTech Ohio and produced by the WOUB Center for Public Media.

The multimedia project consists of eight science and mathematics student video modules for at-risk students in grades 8-10. The website also includes eight teacher self-study video modules with assessment strategies, promoting both student and teacher use. The site is intended to motivate even the most reluctant students to get excited about astronomy, physics and math.

"Most of the science videos I remember seeing in class when I was a kid were just incredibly dull and barely held my attention," said Zac Ross, writer for the project and on-air coordinator for WOUB. "I wanted to do something that resonated a little better with that age group, and something they'd actually want to watch because it was funny, and not have to labor through just because it was going to be on a test."

Ross was inspired by Bill Nye, the host of the "Bill Nye the Science Guy" videos and television series. Those videos became inspiration for Ross while he was creating the website.

"I'd grown up watching 'Bill Nye the Science Guy' and I'm a huge fan of sketch comedy, so I wanted something that married the two," Ross said.

He continued to say what made this science program different. "Talking heads, the shooting style of one person speaking directly to the camera, are visually boring," Ross said. "I think [the panel of scientists hired by WOUB] were pretty set on having a unified host for all eight episodes, so I wanted to give [the host] someone to talk to, which became Steve, the assistant. I decided at the beginning that Steve would never talk back, so we didn't have those awkward 'how does this work,' 'why does this happen,' kind of conversations. Basically, I created a Penn and Teller-esque comedy team."

The content is aligned with the Ohio Academic Content Standards for Physics and Astronomy. The modules each focus on specific key concepts, such as waves carry energy, the size of the cosmos, and the formation of all the elements. Professors from Ohio University's Physics and Astronomy department consulted on the curriculum, and students played a large role in the production.

"We had a ton of students involved in this project, both behind and in front of the camera," Ross said. "We lucked out with a tremendously talented crew. It's a little funny because I kind of have to be reminded they're students. When we were on set, they were always professional, so that's how I treated them. It's literally something that couldn't have been done without student involvement."

The Telly Awards were established in 1978 and last year received more than 13,000 entries from all 50 states and five continents. WOUB received Telly Awards for education, copywriting and humor on the Web site.

"It's a tremendous honor," Ross said. "As a production unit, it's a great reward for a job well done. As a writer, I think it was kind of nice to get a sign that I did something right."

Ross, along with others, are already beginning work on "Down and Dirty Science," another multimedia project set to start this summer.