Film Update

July 30 2019

POV: 'Inventing Tomorrow' | Film Update

Film Update

In July 2019, POV asked Inventing Tomorrow filmmaker Laura Nix what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.

What are all of the students (Sahithi, Nuha & Intan, Jared, Fernando, Jesús and Jose) doing now? Are any of them continuing their projects?

All the students have had really different experiences since the film was completed, but for the large part they are still continuing their passion for using science towards making change.


Project: Arsenic Contamination Through Tsunami Wave Movement in Hawaii:

Investigating the Concentration of Heavy Metals in the Soil from the 1960 Hilo, Hawaii Tsunami.

Jared and his family are safe after a dramatic year in Hilo facing both an erupting volcano, plus flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Lane. In May 2019, Jared went back to ISEF with his project to create hot spot maps of arsenic contamination in Hilo, and won 3rd place in Earth and Environmental Science at the Grand Awards. In the summer of 2019, Jared got involved in the protests at Mauna Kea, defending the right of native Hawaiians to manage the land where the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope is to be built. He will be attending University of Hawaii Hilo this fall to pursue his studies in Environmental Science, where he received a full scholarship.


Project: An Innovative Crowd-Sourcing Approach To Monitoring Fresh Water Bodies

While Sahithi was finishing her senior year of high school, Bellandur lake caught fire again several times. Now she is about to start her sophomore year at Stanford University, fall 2019, where she plans on continuing both her research and her activism on water safety. She is currently creating a new version of her project as part of the film’s Citizen Science Challenge initiative, in partnership with SciStarter and POV/PBS. She is currently seeking new partners to work with on the app, and eventually hopes to use her app to create a Water Health Map of the World.


Project: Bangka’s Tin Sea Sand - Fe3O4 as A Removal of Pb(II) Ions in By-Product of Tin Ore Processing (Tailing)

Nuha is about to start her third year at the Islamic University of Indonesia in Yogyakarta where she is majoring in Environmental Engineering. She is continuing her research at a university level to address the environmental contamination caused by tin mining in her home of Bangka. Intan is pursuing a degree in medicine at Malahayati University and hopes to become a military doctor. They participated in a screening tour with me of Inventing Tomorrow in spring of 2019, speaking to audiences all over the country as part of American Film Showcase, a program of the U.S. State Department. Nuha also came to St. Louis, Missouri to speak about her research on a panel at the National Science Teachers Association.



Project: Photocatalytic ceramic paint to purify air

Jose, Jesus and Fernando are all about to start their third year of university in Monterrey. Jose is continuing to pursue his degree in Material Engineering at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León where he’s interested in creating sustainable solutions such as porous asphalt which conserves groundwater. Jesús is pursuing a degree in Communications so he can continue to advocate for evidence-based research, and Fernando is continuing his work in medical school, with an emphasis on public health. All three young men came to speak on a panel at the National Science Teachers Association in St. Louis, Missouri, about their research and the importance of youth environmental stewardship.

Were you a science geek yourself as a kid?

I don’t have a STEM background. I was a band geek in high school, in college I studied history, and in graduate school I studied visual arts. But I think that was helpful, because I could serve as a proxy for the audience. The students’ projects needed to make sense to me, so I could make sense of them for an audience.

One of my goals for the film is to lower the intimidation level around science. I think many people, including myself, often think, “That’s something only scientists can understand.” I’m hoping these high school kids can help people realize that science is something that anyone can engage in.

I think one of the greatest values of competing in a science fair is that you learn how to communicate your project to the general public. The kids must defend their scientific research to a judge, and although the judge is an expert, the student must be able to talk about their project simply and clearly. In fact, explaining the project clearly makes up the biggest part of a student’s score.

There’s also a great part of the science fair called Public Day, when middle school students are bussed in and the participants must explain their projects to them. This was truly one of the most beautiful and hopeful things that I filmed; watching the older students speaking with younger ones and seeing the light bulbs go off in in their heads.

I also think the value of the fair is in creating a community of like-minded people. I wasn’t interested in making another film that shows kids competing with each other; I was more moved by the community that I saw being formed. That seemed to be what the kids took from it, and that was more important to me than whether one of my characters won a prize.

Another value of the science fair is that kids from different backgrounds and different parts of the world are physically brought together in one place. We live in a world where we communicate online, but it’s so valuable to be in the same room with like-minded souls. The fact that these kids are doing intense scientific research means that sometimes they can be isolated at home, so it was enjoyable to see them meet other kids who were like them.

What are you working on now?

I just finished a new short film called Walk Run Cha-Cha, about a couple in Los Angeles who became ballroom dancers in their early 60’s to make up for the time they lost when they were separated by the war in Vietnam. It uses dance as a lens to tell a story about love, community, separation, and reunion. The film is part of a series about immigration that was produced with Concordia Studio, and will be launched on New York Times Op-Docs in the fall of 2019.