The Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an annual, video-based science competition for high school students, has now entered the final step in the judging process to select this year’s winner. Organised by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, the Challenge’s primary aim is to inspire the next generation of scientific minds.

Yuri Milner and his wife Julia fund the Breakthrough Junior Challenge through the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, which they set up to fulfill their Giving Pledge in 2012, in which they have committed a large part of their combined lifetime wealth. Through this foundation, they aim to raise the profile of scientists, both existing and budding; bring key scientific questions into the public consciousness; and inspire the next generation to answer these questions.

What Is the Breakthrough Junior Challenge?

Julia and Yuri Milner founded the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2015 through their Breakthrough Prize Foundation. Motivated by the Milners’ Giving Pledge, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge runs each year from April to November. Students aged 13-18 from seven regions enter by submitting an original video of 90 seconds that explores a topic related to life sciences, mathematics, or physics.

Yuri Milner notes that young people are often good at explaining ideas to their peers, and the competition gives them a chance to do this on a global scale.

How Do Judges Select Entries for the Challenge?

The selection process comprises four judging phases, conducted by a mixture of entrants, the public, and scientific leaders. Phase one is the Peer-to-Peer-Review, which requires all competing students to review and score a minimum of five videos submitted by fellow contestants.

A total of seventy-five videos then progress to the second phase: the Evaluation Panel Review. This dedicated panel reviews the seventy-five entries based on four criteria: engagement, illumination, creativity, and difficulty.

The third phase is the Popular Vote, which opens up selection to the public, who can view the video entries on Facebook or YouTube and vote for their favourite. The winner of the Popular Vote from each region automatically becomes a finalist, bypassing the last selection phase, the Selection Committee Review. In this Review, the Selection Committee selects five finalists to join the Popular Vote winners for the final round of judging.

The 2022 challenge is currently in the Selection Committee Review phase.

What Are the Prizes?

Along with engaging in their enthusiasm for science, students who enter the Breakthrough Prize Challenge have the chance of winning excellent prizes. With support from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, there are a total of three prizes available. Firstly, a post-secondary scholarship worth $250,000 for the challenge winner. Secondly, the winning student can nominate one of their teachers to receive $50,000. Thirdly, the winner’s high school will have a science lab worth $100,000 built onsite.

Who Has Won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Before?

Judges have selected previous competition winners from all over the world for their captivating insights into complex scientific theories and topics, which they delivered in creative, illuminating ways.

The inaugural challenge winner was Ryan Chester from the U.S., who discussed the theory of relativity. 2016 saw two winners announced: Deanna See, from Singapore, for her video on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and Antonella Masini, from Peru, who explored quantum correlation. Hillary Diane Andales, from the Philippines, was the 2017 winner and focused on relativity and the equivalence of reference frames.

Individuals from around the world have gone on to become Breakthrough Junior Challenge Champions every year since.

How Does the Giving Pledge Inspire Future Generations?

In their dedication to inspiring the scientific minds of tomorrow, Julia and Yuri Milner continue to contribute their wealth in accordance with their Giving Pledge. Without this philanthropic commitment, which gave life to the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, this competition — and the community and creativity it inspires — would not be possible.

Find out more about the Breakthrough Junior Challenge.