SHADY HILLS — Shelby Fox was so overwhelmed she started to cry.
The odds of winning the $75,000 grand prize in eInstruction's video contest seemed so distant, the Crews Lake Middle School eighth-grader said.
When her digital design class got the news early Friday that they had beaten out hundreds of other entries, Shelby couldn't hold it in.
"I'm so happy. We really worked hard on it," she said, while waiting to help with the school's morning news broadcast. "I got so flustered over it. I'm so excited that we won."
Crews Lake has offered digital design and animation classes since it opened, with the goal of offering students an entry into a high-skill, high-demand career. Students have entered many contests, winning almost all of them, but nothing this big.
Teacher Joe Groppe couldn't contain his elation as he talked about the prize, which totaled $79,812 in technology supplies for the school. More important than the added equipment, he said, was each student's role in getting there.
"Each kid had a special effect assigned to them," Groppe said. "They worked so hard. ... That's what I'm most proud of."
Eighth-grader Noah Corrado said the group spent one day filming their footage of a teacher who was bad in the classroom until getting access to cool technology. But it took three weeks of editing to get the project just right, he said.
After making it to the short list of finalists, Noah continued, the students urged their schoolmates to vote for their video to win. Votes made up 40 percent of the outcome, with judging accounting for the rest.
"We voted as much as we could," he said.
This is the fifth year that eInstruction held the "Interactive Classroom Makeover Contest," in which students show off their video skills. The Texas-based company specializes in classroom technology, including hand-held test clickers and white boards.
Principal Chris Christoff learned the school had won earlier in the week. But he and Groppe decided to keep it under wraps until Friday's morning announcements, so the students could all share in the elation together.
Christoff said he looked forward to the variety of hardware and software coming to Crews Lake, including hand-held test responders, computers, animation software and math instruction software. It's so much, he said, that the staff plans to go through the list to decide what it might share with its feeder elementary schools.
They expect the equipment, along with a $500 check dedicated to a celebration party, to arrive by January.
"This is the coolest Christmas present," seventh-grader Brian Le.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.