Yuri Milner’s Junior Breakthrough Challenge is nearing the final stages of selection. The top entries’ video submissions were presented to the public for popular voting, and the finalists will be selected from that batch. It’s an exciting time for aspiring scientists and science communicators!
What Is the Junior Breakthrough Challenge?
The Junior Breakthrough Challenge is a competition by Julia and Yuri Milner as part of their Giving Pledge. They set it up to support the communication of scientific ideas. Every year, the challenge allows kids ages 13 to 18 to compete by creating a video explaining a scientific concept.
The competition is international, with winners in each of seven regions:
- Central and South America
- North America
- Australia and New Zealand
- The Middle East and Africa
Each region has a winner, and there is a single overall winner of the competition. Prizes include a $250,000 college scholarship, $50,000 for a teacher who inspired the winner, and a $100,000 lab build for the winner’s school.
Stages of the Competition
To win the coveted Breakthrough Prize, applicants will go through a gauntlet of review processes that separate the excellent submissions from the finalists and winners. There are multiple stages of judging and review, and one of the most exciting parts of Yuri Milner’s challenge is that the applicants get the first say in who wins.
Below, you’ll find a complete breakdown of the selection journey, from submission to winning the big prize.
In the first stage, applicants review the submissions of their peers. Each applicant will score at least five peer submissions. The total scores of the peer-to-peer review are combined; from that, the 75 best submissions move on to an evaluation panel review.
The evaluation panel is made up of professional scientists who then cut the field to 30 videos.
The top 30 videos are posted on the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Facebook page and Youtube channel. They are open to the public, and anyone can vote. The video with the most votes will automatically advance to the final stage at the end of voting.
Selection Committee Review
After voting, a selection committee (also made up of industry experts and professional scientists) will review the submissions and pick the finalists. They choose five entries as finalists to compete with the famous vote champion.
From that group, the final Challenge Prize Winner is chose.
You can see submissions from the two most recent Challenge Prize Winners to better understand what the competition is all about and how it works.
Maryam Tsegaya won the Breakthrough Prize in 2020. The Canadian 17-year-old made a video on quantum tunneling where she explained wave-particle duality, probability functions, and other concepts in quantum mechanics along the way.
Amber Kwok was the 2021 winner. This 18-year-old from Mauritius made a video on Van Der Waals and Casimir forces. She covers atomic theory and electromagnetism in her video and concepts of virtual and antiparticles. It’s a fun dive into advanced physics.