The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is an annual competition that encourages students from across the world to think creatively about science and, in return, be in with a chance of winning big prizes. Every year, the Breakthrough Foundation organizes the Challenge, inviting children aged 13 to 18 to create and submit original short videos that illuminate a concept or theory in physics, mathematics, or the life sciences. The Challenge is a part of Breakthrough Prize founder Yuri Milner and his wife Julia’s Giving Pledge commitment to promote science and spread scientific ideas.
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge involves several stages of voting and judging to select an ultimate winner. Before the selection committee decides the final Challenge prize winner for 2022, let’s take a closer look at the competition and a few of this year’s finalists.
The Breakthrough Foundation and the Giving Pledge
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge’s origins date back to 2012 when Julia and Yuri Milner joined the Giving Pledge. Established by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, the Giving Pledge encourages billionaires to dedicate large sums of their private wealth to good causes. Leading on from the Giving Pledge, Yuri Milner founded the Breakthrough Foundation to fund the Breakthrough Prize, otherwise known as the “Oscars of Science.” The Breakthrough Prize is the largest-ever award for innovations in science.
Later, he and Julia launched the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, recognizing that young people often excel at explaining important scientific ideas to their peers and allowing them to do so on a global scale.
The Breakthrough Foundation’s goals include:
- Inspiring a new generation of brilliant thinkers to engage in scientific ideas
- Raising some of science’s biggest ideas in the public consciousness
- Bringing much-deserved prestige to the world’s scientists and mathematicians.
Deciding the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Champion
So, what makes a winning video, and who chooses the final Breakthrough Junior Challenge champion?
There are four stages to the judging process:
- Peer-to-Peer Review
- Evaluation Panel Review
- Popular Vote
- Selection Committee Review
Now that the Popular Vote stage of the 2022 Challenge has ended, the Selection Committee Review stage has begun. The Selection Committee, a group of 14 scientists, science entrepreneurs, teachers, and leaders, is reviewing and scoring the Evaluation Panel’s top group of finalists. The Selection Committee chooses up to five entries for final consideration, and the Popular Vote top scorer joins this group, before the much-anticipated announcement of the Challenge prize winner, which will take place this November.
Much like the impressive $3 million prize on offer for the Breakthrough Prize, the Breakthrough Junior Prize winner can expect to receive the following prizes:
- A $250,000 post-secondary education scholarship
- $50,000 for the teacher who inspired them
- A science lab built at their school worth $100,000.
As well as the overall finalists and champion, the Challenge announces multiple regional champions annually from:
- North America
- Australia/New Zealand
- Central/South America
- Middle East/Africa
2022 Popular Vote Finalists
The popular vote top scorer this year is 14-year-old Ema Donev from Croatia, who moves into the next round of selections with her video on life and entropy.
Other 2022 finalists the Selection Committee are considering include:
- Minatullah Ammar Abduljabbar, 17, Iraq, whose video outlines the topic of referred pain.
- Armani Adams, 17, Trinidad and Tobago, whose video helps viewers answer the question: What is light?
- Sahand Adibnia, 18, USA, whose entry explains a special shape called Gabriel’s Horn.