In 2015, Giving Pledge philanthropist Yuri Milner launched the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. The annual competition asks students to share insights into an important scientific theory or concept in an inventive video. Entries have closed for this year’s competition, and the judging process has begun.
Established to support his Giving Pledge, Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Foundation funds the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. His Foundation also supports Tech For Refugees, the Breakthrough Initiatives, and the Breakthrough Prize.
Anyone aged 13 to 18 from anywhere in the world can enter the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. Every year, thousands of entrants submit original videos in English (two minutes in length at most) that bring an idea from the following fields to life:
- The life sciences.
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge has a four-phase judging process, and the competition evaluates submissions based on four criteria:
The application process involves:
- Signing up on the Breakthrough Junior Challenge website.
- Filling out a profile and an application.
- Uploading the video to YouTube.
The competition also asks entrants to get involved in the first stage of the judging process by scoring other entrants’ videos.
In the past, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has received some incredible submissions from brilliant young minds.
On top of receiving $400,000 worth of prizes for their school, teacher, and future education, Challenge winners receive an invitation to the Breakthrough Prize ceremony. Dubbed the “Oscars of Science,” this event celebrates the world’s leading researchers and features A-list celebrities.
Previous Challenge winners include Hillary Andales, Jeffery Chen, and Maryam Tsegaye.
Hillary Andales attended the 2018 Breakthrough Prize ceremony after winning the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge with her video about relativity. As part of her prize, she won her school a fabrication, physics, design, and innovation lab valued at $100,000.
Andales had also entered the competition the previous year when she became the top scorer in the 2017 Popular Vote. This achievement won her school a DNA molecular biology lab.
Jeffery Chen won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2019 for his inspirational video about neutrino astronomy.
Outside of the competition, Chen’s passion for science led him to set up an environmental club at his school. When he attended the 2020 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in California, members of the club joined Chen on stage.
In 2020, Maryam Tsegaye won the Challenge for her engaging video explaining quantum tunnelling.
The Covid-19 pandemic meant that, for two years, the Breakthrough Prize ceremony didn’t take place. Tsegaye finally attended the event in 2023, along with the 2021 and 2022 Challenge winners Amber Kwok and Noor Haideri. Each young woman delivered a speech to an audience of Hollywood actors, top scientists, and business leaders.
Tsegaye also represented Canada alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the coronation of King Charles III.
Find out more about past winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge.
Yuri Milner is a technology investor and science philanthropist who founded the internet investment company DST Global. In 2012, he and his wife Julia joined the Giving Pledge, committing to support fundamental science and scientists.
To follow through on their Giving Pledge, the Milners created the Breakthrough Foundation. The organisation supports programmes like the Breakthrough Initiatives, which explore questions about life beyond Earth and humanity’s future in space.
The Breakthrough Initiatives hope to encourage public debate around these subjects. There are five Breakthrough Initiatives: Listen, Watch, Starshot, Message, and Discuss.
The Breakthrough Foundation also funds Tech For Refugees. Founded in 2022, Tech For Refugees is a non-profit initiative addressing the global refugee crisis. Tech For Refugees collaborates with organisations that leverage their technologies to support refugees in several countries.