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Award-winning Videos Showcase Tech 'Transformers'
The award ceremony begins inside the Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Image above: Darryl Mitchell, NASA's project manager for the NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest, addresses students and teachers in the Rocket Garden of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
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Peter Cullen speaks to students and teachers

Image above: Peter Cullen, the voice of OPTIMUS PRIME, addresses students and teachers at the ceremony. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
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The students who produced three award-winning videos took home trophies -- and met the actor who gives voice to a heroic robot in disguise -- at the NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest awards ceremony on April 12 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

"You are the Galileos, the Newtons. You are the adventurers who will build the dreams," said Peter Cullen, the longtime voice of OPTIMUS PRIME, who attended the ceremony and answered questions for the students gathered at the complex's Rocket Garden. "You are the future, and I am proud of you all."

The winning videos are "Eagle Eyes Ultraviolet-blocking lens protect, enhance vision," "A Beautiful Earth, with the Help of Micro-Organisms" and "NASA Vid 2012." Winners received cash awards or scholarship money, as well as the NASA OPTIMUS PRIME trophy etched with the image of the popular TRANSFORMERS leader.
› View all contestants' videos

NASA's spinoff technologies are innovations originally designed for spaceflight, but transformed into products that improve daily lives.

Now in its second year, the OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest asks students in grades three through 12 to study NASA spinoff technologies and produce short, creative videos promoting their favorites.

"I've been sent out around the country to find some of the smartest, most talented, creative (school-age) kids in the nation to see if any of them might one day want to be a future scientist or astronaut or engineer," said Jim Stofan, NASA's deputy associate administrator for Education.

The first person to walk on Mars is probably between fourth and eighth grade today, according to Stofan, who asked for a show of hands from students in those grade levels. "One of you might be the person who actually sets the first step on Mars."

The contest, run by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Innovative Partnerships Office in Greenbelt, Md., is designed to help students see the benefits of NASA technology here on Earth. NASA collaborated with Hasbro in using the company’s iconic OPTIMUS PRIME character.

Students provided their completed videos to NASA, which posted them on YouTube, where members of the public could vote for the best productions. NASA judges select winners from the top five videos in each age group: grades three to five, six to eight and nine to 12.

So, what's the connection with OPTIMUS PRIME, leader of the AUTOBOT warriors in the fictional world of the TRANSFORMERS? Like NASA's spinoff technologies, OPTIMUS PRIME was built for space, but changes into something useful while on Earth -- in his case, a slick, armored semi-truck.

Cullen has provided the voice of OPTIMUS PRIME since the television cartoon's inception in 1984, and his history with the character extends to all three live-action movies and the current computer-animated television series from Hasbro Studios, "Transformers: Prime" airing on the Hub TV Network.

"You have shown rare skill in illustrating the innovations of the men and women at NASA," said OPTIMUS PRIME in an animated message for students. "You have inspired fellow humans to seek out new solutions to the problems you face. You are heroes."

Space shuttle astronauts Jon McBride and Wendy Lawrence also celebrated with the winners and emphasized the importance of education in their own lives and in the eventual careers of today's students.

"When I was 10 years old, we did one of the most remarkable things in the space program -- which was to put humans on the moon for the first time -- and that had a profound impact on the direction of my life," Lawrence said. "The key to making a dream like that come true is doing exactly what you're doing now. Staying in school and getting that good education -- that truly is going to be the foundation you build the rest of your life on."

TRANSFORMERS, AUTOBOT, and OPTIMUS PRIME are trademarks of Hasbro and used with permission. © 2012 Hasbro. All rights reserved.
Anna Heiney
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center