The Breakthrough Junior Challenge encourages kids to think critically about science. Students aged 13-18 from all over the globe are invited to create and submit short videos that help bring to life an idea, theory, or concept in biology, physics, mathematics, or any combination of these. Evaluators critique the student’s ability and creativity to communicate complex scientific ideas in engaging, informative, and innovative ways. Julia Milner and Yuri Milner founded the Breakthrough Prize Foundation as part of their Giving Pledge, which encourages science and the proliferation of scientific ideas.
There are three levels of prizes for the winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. The winner receives a $250,000 post-secondary scholarship for themselves. In addition, the winner’s teacher receives a $50,000 cash prize. Finally, $100,000 is given as a prize to the winner’s school for a Breakthrough Science Lab.
The Multiple Stages of the Junior Breakthrough Challenge Voting Process
Applicants for the Breakthrough Junior Challenge must submit to several stages of judging for the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. The first stage is the Evaluation Panel Review. The next stage, which ran to September 4th, is the verification of finalists, which can include up to 30 contestants.
The Popular Vote is where the general public is invited to vote for their favorite video. Only seven regional champions will be named after the final votes are tallied, plus one top scorer. This will result in a Popular Vote Top Scorer. In October, there will be an announcement of the Popular Vote Top Scorer and a public posting of the finalists and regional champions. The final winner will be announced in November.
Previous Winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge
At age 18, Amber Kwok, from Mauritius, was the winner of the seventh annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge. Kwok made the winning video explaining Van Der Waals Forces & the Casimir Effect. Amber was awarded a $250,000 college scholarship. She will attend Stanford University in the Fall of 2022. Shastri Doorgah was her science teacher, and she received a $50,000 prize. Her school was awarded a $100,000 state-of-the-art science laboratory.
Kwok stated in a press release, “I heard about the Breakthrough Junior Challenge through Khan Academy and was immediately fascinated by the idea of explaining science through video. . . . Science can help us discover new solutions to today’s global problems and expand our knowledge of the mysteries of the universe.” She went on to state: “It is an honor that has changed my life. I can’t wait for the next chapter and all the exciting opportunities it will offer.”
Gornekk Suwattanapong, 17, from Thailand was the Asian Regional Champion in 2021. In his captivating video, he discussed “Black Holes and Time Travel.” The finalist and Central/South America Regional Champion in 2021 were 17-year-old Farid Chomali Castro from Chile, with his video, “The Fifth State of Matter.”
What to Expect in the Next Round of Selections of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge
The entry with the most Likes and positive reactions in each geographical region on the Breakthrough Facebook page will move on. This is in addition to the total number of Likes they have on their video on the Breakthrough YouTube channel.
Popular Vote Geographic Areas:
- North America
- Central America
- Middle East
- New Zealand
The Breakthrough Prize and the Breakthrough Junior Challenge honor scientific excellence and inspire the next generation. Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri, and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki help to support the Breakthrough Prizes.