AUSTIN (KXAN) A 16-year-old student from Austin has won a national prize with his documentary film.

Carson Collins recently claimed top honors in C-SPAN’s national 2023 StudentCam competition.

Nearly 3,000 students —from 40 states — participated in the project-based learning experience.

In the end, Collins took home the title with his documentary “A Perilous Purchase: CCP Ownership of U.S. Land.”

The first-place prize included a $3,000 check, which he’s already putting to use for future projects.

“I’ve spent some of it on new camera equipment and new editing equipment,” Collins said. “I’m looking into creating my own video production business.”

Last year, the home-schooled student finished 3rd in C-SPAN’s competition.

After working on this year’s film for three months, this win meant even more for Collins.

“It’s been very meaningful to see the changes that I learned and initiated from last year’s video,” he explained. “For this video, I tried to adhere to the rubric and better adhere to what the judges were looking for.”

Now in its 19th year, the nationwide competition gives students an opportunity to explore multiple perspectives on topics that are important to them and consider solutions to addressing them.

“This year, we asked students to be bold and step into the role as a newly-elected member of Congress,” C-SPAN education program senior specialist Pam McGorry said.

Collins’ film featured a tricky topic, an overview of U.S. land ownership by entities associated with the Chinese Communist Party.

“I was thinking I could do something with the Chinese Communist Party and how they’re affecting the United States,” he said. “It’s harder to research and less talked about.”

Competing solo — against groups of up to three students — Collins’ documentary included interviews with Texas Rep. Chip Roy and Texas Public Policy Foundation chief national initiatives officer Chuck DeVore.

“It’s a tough topic to tackle as a group, but to do it on his own was really impressive,” McGorry said.

In 2021, Collins taught himself how to edit and film after hearing about this C-SPAN competition.

Just two years later, he’s won it all.

Collins is also dual enrolled at Austin Community College, pursuing a radio-television-film degree.

“I hope to go to the US Naval Academy, spend a few years in the military and figure out a career in video production after that,” he concluded.

Collins’ documentary will air on C-SPAN Thursday at 5:50 a.m. and throughout the day.

The film can also be viewed on the StudentCam competition website.