The Breakthrough Prize Foundation announced today the launch of its second annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global student science and mathematics competition designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics or mathematics.


“The Breakthrough Junior Challenge encourages the next generation of scientists and leaders to help us all see scientific principles in new, fresh ways,” said Breakthrough Prize co-founder Dr. Priscilla Chan. “We hope students from around the world will take part in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, and I’m looking forward to seeing their incredible work.  As we learned last year, these students’ unique perspectives and innovative thinking can teach us all about the importance of complex scientific principles in our daily lives.”


A video of Dr. Chan launching the Breakthrough Junior Challenge can be viewed here: Breakthrough Junior Challenge Launch Video.


Students ages 13-to-18 from countries across the globe are invited to create original videos (up to five minutes in length) that illustrate a concept or theory in the life sciences, physics or mathematics. The submissions will be judged on the students’ ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in the most engaging, illuminating, and imaginative ways. The deadline for submissions is October 10, 2016. Students must register to participate at


One winner will be recognized and awarded a $250,000 scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will win $50,000. The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the art science lab valued at $100,000.


New this year, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will incorporate a “Popular Vote” contest. All semifinalist videos will be posted for public viewing on the official Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, and the video that receives the most “likes” will be declared the “Popular Vote” top scorer. The “Popular Vote” top scorer will receive automatic placement into the finalist round, and will be in the running for overall challenge winner.


Last year’s winning submission was from 18-year-old Ryan Chester, of North Royalton High School, Ohio. Ryan’s video, titled “Some Cool Ways to Understand the Special Theory of Relativity and What It Means About Time,” explored Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity and was noted by judges for its wit, clarity and creativity.  The video had global appeal, and received close to four million online views.  In September, Ryan will enroll at Harvard University.


“Winning the Breakthrough Junior Challenge changed my life, especially by opening up options for college. Originally, I was going to go to a state school in Ohio. That was the most affordable option. After winning the Challenge, any college became affordable. Now I am going to Harvard, which before I had never even considered,” said Chester. “My advice to current participants would be to definitely do your research.  Make sure you understand the topic better than you need to.  And add any kind of humor.”


In 2015, the competition received more than 2,000 qualified applications from a total of 86 countries, including the United States, India, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Norway, France, Israel, and Peru.


“The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is unlike any other student competition in the world, and the overwhelmingly positive responses demonstrated during its inaugural year prove just that,” said Breakthrough Junior Challenge judge, author and educator Lucy Hawking. “More than 2,000 students submitted truly unique and thoughtful videos, and I cannot wait to see what the next class comes up with. I am so delighted to see the progress of last year’s winner, Ryan Chester, and am very excited to see what this year’s entrants produce. I’m honored to once again join the judging panel.”


This year’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge winner will be recognized at the Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony in Silicon Valley. The winning student and his or her teacher will be announced and the first-place film will be presented during a nationally televised show, details of which will be announced at a later date.


“When students are challenged to create videos that make important scientific and mathematical concepts clear, relevant and engaging to the general public, science overall becomes more accessible to everyone.  And this helps demystify the notions around who can and should be “doing science,” said Dr. Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal, 100 Year Starship, an independent global initiative to ensure that the capabilities for human travel beyond our solar system to another star, exist within the next 100 years.  “I am particularly excited to be a judge for the Breakthrough Junior Challenge since accessibility, inclusion and demystification of the sciences are fundamental to my longstanding commitment to improving science education and literacy.”


The short-listed video submissions will be reviewed by Breakthrough Prize laureates and other leaders in science, technology, and education from partner organization The Khan Academy. In addition to creating and producing their own video entries, students will also have the opportunity to participate in the peer-to-peer scoring of fellow students’ submissions.


“We’re proud to partner with the Breakthrough Prize on the Breakthrough Junior Challenge again this year,” said Khan Academy founder Sal Khan. “Creating a clear and engaging video explanation of a complex concept is a great way to demonstrate mastery and to help others understand and love the subject too.”


Breakthrough Junior Challenge is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner, through the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, based on a grant from Mark Zuckerberg’s fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and a grant from Milner Global Foundation.


Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global initiative to develop and demonstrate young people’s knowledge of science and scientific principles; generate excitement in these fields; support STEM career choices; and engage the imagination and interest of the public-at-large in key concepts of fundamental science. 


The Breakthrough Prize

Founded in 2012 by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, the Breakthrough Prize is an annual award honoring outstanding achievements in life sciences, physics and mathematics. The prize aims to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. Laureates of each prize are chosen by the respective Selection Committee comprised of previous recipients of the prize. In November 2014, two of its founders, Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, announced the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize for up-and-coming mathematicians, to run alongside the existing New Horizons in Physics Prize.  


For more information on the Breakthrough Prizes:




The Khan Academy is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit on a mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. We believe that students of all ages should have free, unlimited access to the best educational content and that they should be able to consume and master this content at their own pace. In addition, we believe that there are incredible opportunities to use intelligent software development, deep data analytics, and intuitive user interfaces to more effectively present these educational resources to students and teachers around the world. Our content library covers a wide range of topics, from kindergarten to early college math, biology, chemistry, physics, economics, finance, and history. We have over 37 million registered students and have delivered over 700 million lessons and 4.85 billion exercise problems. For further information, visit


The Breakthrough Prize Lab for the winning student’s school is designed by and in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). Established in 1890, CSHL has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education. Its New York campus boasts 1100 faculty, students and employees and hosts over 12,000 visiting scientists each year for world-renowned conferences and courses. CSHL’s DNA Learning Center is the world’s largest provider of student lab instruction in molecular genetics and teacher training. Materials and methods developed by the DNA Learning Center are accessible for free through more than 20 award-winning educational websites. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a science policy think tank and a graduate program in biological sciences. Visit


The Breakthrough Junior Challenge has also partnered with National Geographic to help reach science and math enthusiasts, educators, and students around the globe.  The National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and Fox Cable Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society’s commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission. 



For more information, including competition rules, video submission guidelines and queries, go to:


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Janet Wootten, Direct: +1-212-843-8024

Kristen Bothwell, Direct: +1-212-843-9227