Yuri Milner Inspires Next Generation of Scientists with Junior Breakthrough Prizes

Yuri Milner and his wife Julia launched the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2015 as part of the Giving Pledge they had committed to three years earlier. The Giving Pledge is an initiative involving some of the world’s wealthiest individuals who have all publicly promised to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

What is the Breakthrough Junior Challenge?

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Julia and Yuri Milner, launched the Breakthrough Prize to inspire students aged 13 through 18 to begin thinking about science in creative ways. Students from across the world create and submit a video no longer than 90 seconds that explains a theory or concept in mathematics, physics, or life sciences in a new and relatable way.

Yuri Milner chose to start the Breakthrough Junior Challenge as part of his Giving Pledge to motivate the next generation to explore scientific research. The successful technology investor and philanthropist also hopes to bring science’s biggest questions into the public consciousness.

What is the Junior Breakthrough Prize for 2022?

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge first-place winner in each category will receive a prize package valued at $400,000. The breakdown of the prize is as follows:

  • $250,000 post-secondary scholarship
  • $100,000 science lab built at their school
  • $50,000 for the teacher who inspired the student in their scientific explorations

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge Judging Process

Judges assign points from 0 to 5 in each of the following categories when determining the winners:

  • Creativity: Did the participant use creative and innovative methods when introducing and explaining the subject matter?
  • Difficulty: How challenging is the subject? Did the student need to seek resources outside of school to research and present a video on the specific topic?
  • Engagement: How well did the video capture the interest of viewers? Did most people watch the video from start to finish?
  • Illumination: Was the presenter clear when describing the subject? How well did the entrant inspire viewers to develop a genuine interest in the topic presented? Was the presenter able to do a deep dive into the subject in just one minute and 30 seconds?

Judges can score to the half-point and provide a brief rationale for the score they choose.

The public also gets an opportunity to weigh in via the Breakthrough Prize Facebook and Instagram pages. On Sept. 5, 2022, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge team uploaded 30 videos to each social media site for 15 days. The videos include the two top-scoring entries in each of the following geographic regions:

  • Asia, including China
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Central America, including the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
  • Europe
  • India
  • The Middle East and Africa
  • North America, including the United States and Canada

Winners of the social media popular vote will bypass the next judging round and go directly to the finals. The popular vote will also determine regional winners.

Regional Winners in 2021

Seventeen-year-old Farid Chomali Castro from Chili was the top regional winner last year for his presentation called “Atoms Can Also Behave Like Waves.” Gornekk Suwattanapong from Thailand, 17, was a regional winner for his entry, “What Do Black Holes Have to Do With Time Travel?” American Ben Barnes, 18, was also a regional finalist for his video, “What is Time Dilation?”

The Giving Pledge Has Been Personally Rewarding for Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner and the entire staff at Breakthrough Junior Challenge are excited that judging for the 2022 content has reached the final stages. Winners will receive notification during the live Breakthrough Prize Ceremony in November 2022. The Breakthrough Prize team will announce the exact date shortly.

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