March 16, 2022

Dena Shao of Wootton High School, Group from Clarksburg High Named Grand Prize Winners of ‘Heads Up, Phones Down’ Teen Video Contest

Dena Shao of Wootton High School in Rockville was the grand prize individual winner and the Clarksburg High School team of Aniket Belur, Mohit Belur, Ryan Ngo and Agustin Saldana was the group grand prize winner as the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) announced the winners of its “Heads Up, Phones Down” student video contest. The contest, which asked students to produce videos encouraging peers to not allow cell phones to distract them while driving and walking, received more than 170 entries.

The contest was open to Montgomery County public and private high school students. Video entries were submitted individually or as a group of up to four in English or Spanish.

A team from the MCDOT Safe Routes to School office visited the schools of the grand prize winners on March 11 to surprise the creators of the top entries with prizes, balloons and fanfare.

“I’m so appreciative of the teens who used their creativity to drive home the message of ‘Heads Up, Phones Down’,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “These teens have produced some powerful videos that will help us eliminate distracted driving and increase pedestrian safety. Often the best messaging is peer-to-peer. These videos will help grow a culture shift of awareness and responsibility.”

A grand prize and first and second runner-up prizes were awarded in the group and individual categories. Winning group submissions split the grand prize with gift cards for each member. Individual submission winners qualified for prizes including a PlayStation Five, an Apple Watch or tripod.

The contest winners, with links to their winning videos:

Individual Category:
  • Grand Prize Winner: Dena Shao, Thomas Wootton High School. Video Link:
  • First Runner Up: Elias Bernstein, Winston Churchill High School. Video Link:
  • Second Runner Up: Hailie Clarke, Montgomery County Virtual Academy (Home school: Northwood High School). Video Link:
Group Category:
  • Grand Prize Winners: Aniket Belur, Mohit Belur, Ryan Ngo, Agustin Saldana, Clarksburg High School. Video Link:
  • First Runner Up: Nicholas Bourg, Julian Ekernas, Alexander Risso. Montgomery Blair High School. Video Link:
  • Second Runner Up: Anvika Deva, Sailaja Kadali, Akshya Mahadevan, Riona Sheikh. Richard Montgomery High School. Video Link:
“We know that young drivers, ages 15-19, are the age group with the largest proportion of distracted drivers at the time of a fatal crash,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “Distracted driving and walking are serious issues. These videos will help remind everyone that, while cell phones are an important part of our daily lives, paying attention can be the difference between life and death when you’re behind the wheel of a car.”