The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is possibly the world’s most prestigious—and generous—competition for future scientists. Founded by Julia and Yuri Milner as part of their commitment to the Giving Pledge, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge welcomes brief (no more than one minute and 30 seconds) video presentations of fascinating, fundamental theories or challenging problems of math, the life sciences, and physics from teens aged 13 to 18 in countries around the world.
What’s involved in entering the Breakthrough Junior Challenge?
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is looking for high school students who “get it.” The organizers seek students who understand fundamental scientific principles or who can articulate challenges for basic scientific research.
The contest asks these students to share their insights by making English-language videos no more than 90 seconds long.
The film submission can take any form the entrant desires. Students can produce their videos in a talking-head format, animation, mini-documentaries, or do dramatic reconstructions. It is important to present a single, important idea in a dynamic, visual form. Successful contestants probably won’t stand in front of a blackboard talking. They’re likely to use simulations, diagrams, and physical demonstrations.
Breakthrough Junior Challenge Prizes
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge judges entries based on engagement, illumination, creativity, and difficulty. Part of being creative is presenting your own work, not work completed by someone else.
The prizes for winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge are, well, huge. If your video is chosen as the winner among submissions from all over the world, you will receive a $250,000 scholarship for your future education. Your teacher will win a $50,000 cash award. Your school will gain a $100,000 science lab. And you will be flown to California to meet founders Julia and Yuri Milner as well as other luminaries of the high-tech world at the annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony.
What Kinds of Projects Have Won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge?
In 2021, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Grand Prize went to 18-year-old Amber Kwok of Mauritius for her video on Van der Waals and Casimir forces. Seventeen-year-old Gornekk Suwattanapong of Thailand earned finalist status and special recognition in the space exploration category for his video “What Do Black Holes Have to Do with Time Travel?”
Two years ago in Canada, the 17-year-old Breakthrough Junior Challenge Grand Prize winner Maryam Tsegaye did a three-minute video on Quantum Tunneling. The winner of the most popular video category went to an entry by 17-year-old Ramez Rizk on “String Theory: Unexpected Outcomes.”
The 2019 Breakthrough Junior Challenge video was submitted by 17-year-old Jeffrey Chen of the United States. His video was entitled “Neutrino Astronomy: A New Frontier.” At the top of the popular vote in 2019 was a video by an 18-year-old student in Peru named Branko Malaver-Vojvodic, “Cryptography: The RSA Algorithm.”
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge also recognizes regional winners who have submitted videos on topics as varied as immune checkpoint regulators and telomeres as well as a music video about how to be in more than one time called “Superposition: The Musical”.
You don’t have to make a scientific discovery to participate in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. This contest is all about the ability to communicate basic concepts of math, physics, and the life sciences in new, memorable, fun, and easy-to-understand ways.