There's no doubt about it, the school Science Fair can be a kid's worst nightmare.
To be sure, there are those who thrive in the laboratory setting, whether it be figuring out the best type of soil for sunflowers for the elementary school fair, or using a piece of tin to enhance radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer, as did the winners of the 2011 Intel International Science Fair. But for others, just coming up with an idea for an experiment, never mind a hypothesis, can be cause for anxiety.
Enter Kevin Temmer, 18. The young computer animating wiz has managed to simplify the scientific process in an engaging, award-winning film he created last year as a creative, community service project when he was a student in the International Baccalaureate program at Land O'Lakes High.
Making the animated film, Prepare for the Science Fair, was the perfect avenue for Kevin, who said he has been drawing "ever since I could pick up a pencil" and has long found inspiration in cartoon favorites such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Phineas and Ferb.
"My mom suggested making the film. She told me, 'You know animation and you love animation so you should do something with that,' " said Kevin, who has been making short films for fun ever since he was a middle school student. "I thought doing something on the science fair would be good because I know kids can get stuck.
"I went through the science fair myself and it was a challenge. That's why I thought it was a good idea to have a film that would make it fun — and wouldn't be boring."
Kevin enlisted the help of Amy Basham, his former seventh-grade science teacher at Hillel Academy in Tampa.
"He knew how much I loved getting students interested in science and offered to work with me to create an animated introduction to science fair, an academic program that I work very hard on each year," Basham explained, noting that the two worked together for weeks. "Kevin was able to use his creative abilities to bring my science fair concepts to life."
100 hours of work
Kevin's plot weaves the steps and procedures of a successful science project in a simplistic way with the help of two characters named Jack and Jessica, and a very authoritative-sounding narrator. The 15-minute film, which features some clever dialogue and an original song, was created in about 100 hours, using Flash Animation and Garage Band computer programs. That effort earned a top grade for Kevin, who serves as the voice for all the characters, save one "sort of evil type" voiced by his younger brother, Matthew, 14. Prepare for the Science Fair was awarded "Excellence in Media Production" and "Judges' Favorite" for grades 9-12 in Animation at the 2011 International Student Media Festival.
Now, thanks to some good promotion courtesy of his dad, Bryan Temmer, Kevin's film also has been featured on several educational websites including NASA, the National Science Foundation Knowledge Network, National Geographic Kids, PBS Kids Dragonfly TV, AOL Kids, Edutopia, and Intel's Inspired by Education site. After viewing the film, Kevin was also asked to create an animated introduction for a section on "Cool Jobs in Science" by organizers of the World Science Festival that was held this past June in New York.
"He's a great agent," Kevin said of his dad, who sent e-mails with links to his son's film to school boards and educational organizations throughout the country. "I've made the animation and everything but he's done such a great job of getting it out there."
That was no problem for the proud dad, who has long been in awe of his son's talent.
"At such a very young age he would come home with these drawings and his teachers would tell us, 'Wow, you've got to watch this one,' " Bryan Temmer said. "He would just spend hours and hours drawing on papers. We noticed right away that he had a unique love for art."
And cartoons. And their voices.
"I always loved watching cartoons," Kevin said. "They made me what I am today."
Indeed, Kevin can do a spot-on Elmo from Sesame Street as well as Family Guy animator Seth MacFarlane and all the characters from The Simpsons.
"He can imitate so many cartoon characters," his dad said. "If he was in L.A., he could call a restaurant and make a reservation as Seth MacFarlane and they would think it was him because he can do all the voices. Not that he would do that, of course."
Imitation another talent
Imitation is an art in itself, but creating your own is the best kick for Kevin, who truly enjoys the hours of tedious work it takes to create animated film.
"The biggest reward is when he creates a character and sees it animated and then hears the voice," Bryan Temmer said. "This character he thought up has a personality and it's humorous and you can relate to it."
Kevin, who is now enrolled in his first year at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, has a goal to one day work for a company like Disney or Pixar. Maybe work on a film like Toy Story or be the creator of his own animated television show; one he hopes will appeal to kids and adults.
"My dad always tells me that you have to find something you like and try to make money at that," Kevin said. "This is so much fun and that's why I want to do something like this with my life. I love that elements in the real world can show up in animation. I like the idea of creating a new universe with rules that work."