NPR has launched the second annual Student Podcast Challenge, which invites students in 5th through 12th grade to submit their own podcast for a chance to have it air on NPR.
Last year, 5,700 entries came in from around the country. Topics ranged from immigration to tater tots to surprising local history.
Steve Drummond, executive producer of NPR's education team, said the best entries had one defining factor.
"The single biggest thing was the enthusiasm and the excitement of the students to tell the story," said Drummond.
Expensive recording equipment is not required.
"With nothing more than a smartphone and a laptop computer and free editing software, you could do this. And none of the students that won the contests and most of the finalists - I don't believe any of them used really fancy recording equipment," he said.
This year, NPR is offering more audio training to help students and teachers understand some basic recording techniques.
"Many of the kids did a really great job, the podcasts were awesome, but there are simple things that we know about making radio that we can help out with. So we are trying to make videos and a website with a lot of training opportunities to give teachers and students more support to create a great podcast," Drummond said.
Last year's winners talked about the stigma girls face when they get their periods. Drummond said it "created a lot of buzz."
"Our grand prize winners last year, eighth grade girls from the Bronx, their podcast was heard by millions of people, they got a call from the Today Show on NBC and they went on the news, their teacher was just here testifying on Capitol Hill," he said.
The runners-up told the story of when their Tennessee town executed a circus elephant a century ago.
Podcast entries should range between three and 15 minutes. The judges are members of NPR’s staff.
The deadline to enter is March 24. Winners will be announced in April.
“There is still a lot of time left!” Drummond said.