Every year, young people around the world have the opportunity to enter Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global competition that encourages teenagers to explore the scientific niches that interest them most. To enter the competition, students aged 13-18 can produce and submit original videos of up to 90 seconds that explain and illuminate a complicated concept in the life sciences, physics, or mathematics, making this idea easy to understand for their peers.
Founding the Breakthrough Junior Challenge
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge has grown out of Yuri Milner and his wife Julia’s Giving Pledge, to which the couple is donating at least half of their lifetime wealth for pioneering scientific research. As part of their investment, they have founded the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, which hosts the Breakthrough Junior Challenge every year.
Previous Breakthrough Junior Challenge Champions
As a result of the Milners’ Giving Pledge, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge takes place each year, celebrating regional champions from Asia, North America, Central, and South America, Europe, India, the Middle East and Africa, and Australia and New Zealand.
Previous top-performing entrants include:
· Amogh Thakkar (2021), whose video explains that around 8% of our DNA comes from human endogenous retroviruses and delves into how these viruses replicate.
· Holden Liu (2021), whose video answers the question: How do we reach the stars without dying in the process? To answer this question, Liu explains the physics of the Alcubierre Warp Drive, a method that explains how we could potentially travel faster than the speed of light.
· Gianni Petrillo (2020), whose video explains that telescopes only show us around 5% of the total mass and energy in the universe. He explores the remaining 95% — dark matter and energy — explaining why we can’t see or absorb this matter and describing scientists’ disproven theories of what constitutes this matter.
Entering the Breakthrough Junior Challenge
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is made possible by Yuri Milner’s extensive funding of science programs since joining the Giving Pledge. Anyone aged 13-18 can enter the Challenge. Applicants should fill in the competition entry forms; complete a short questionnaire about themselves, their school, and their chosen topic; and submit their finished video. This video should feature inventive visual mediums, such as animations, demonstrations, diagrams, and other visual devices that grab and maintain viewers’ attention.
The Judging Process
The judging process begins with a Peer-to-Peer Review, in which students assess a minimum of five videos submitted by other contestants. The judges then assess each applicant’s video based on four main criteria: engagement, illumination, creativity, and difficulty, ranking all videos out of five for each criterion in an Evaluation Panel Review.
Once the judges have selected the top 75 candidates from across all regions, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Popular Vote opens. During this process, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation posts up to 30 videos from each of its geographic regions, including the 2 top-scoring submissions from each region, on its social media platforms.
From here, viewers around the world watch and engage with the shortlisted videos on Facebook and YouTube. The video from each region that generates the most positive engagement in the Popular Vote process bypasses the Selection Committee phase of judging and goes straight to the final round of judging, which sees the Committee score up to five carefully selected entries alongside the winners of the Popular Vote.
The 2022 Popular Vote has now closed, and the Selection Committee Review is in progress.
Breakthrough Prize Ceremony 2022
The Breakthrough Prize Foundation will announce this year’s Breakthrough Challenge winner at a live, televised Breakthrough Prize Ceremony, in which the annual prizes are given to some of the world’s greatest scientists. The winner of the Challenge will also be honored, receiving three highly sought-after prizes: a $250,000 post-secondary scholarship, $50,000 for a teacher who has inspired them, and a $100,000 Breakthrough Science Lab for their school.