Breakthrough Prize And Khan Academy Announce 15 Finalists For Breakthrough Junior Challenge For Students

$400,000 in educational prizes to be awarded for bringing scientific and mathematical ideas to life.

Winner to be Announced at Breakthrough Prize Award Ceremony on Nov. 8.

OCTOBER 26, 2015 (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize and Khan Academy today announced the top 15 finalists for the inaugural Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an annual, global competition for science and math students, designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics or mathematics. Generating significant interest – and thoughtful submissions - from students around the world, the Challenge accepted more than 2,000 qualified applications from a total of 86 countries.

The 15 finalists represent the top 15 submissions after two rounds of judging; first, a mandatory peer reviewed, followed by an evaluation panel. The 15 finalists represent four countries – the United States, Canada, Australia and Portugal - and explore topics as diverse as special relativity, infinitesimals, and the science of fireworks.  The top 75 submissions represent 14 of countries.

“This project was designed to inspire our next generation of scientists, and the incoming submissions demonstrated just how excited young people are for math and science,” said Breakthrough Prize co-founder Dr. Priscilla Chan. “Students embraced the assignment on all levels, breathing new life into complex ideas and sharing insights with their peers."

The international competition was open to students 13-to-18 years old and submissions were received from an array of countries, including India, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Australia, China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Norway, France, Israel, Peru, Ukraine, the United States, and many more.

Participants were invited to create original videos that brought to life a concept or theory in the life sciences, physics or mathematics. Submissions were judged on their ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in the most engaging, illuminating, and creative ways.

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

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge winner will be announced at the Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony in Silicon Valley, where he or she will get to meet with giants of science, technology, media and the arts. The winning student and his or her teacher will be announced and the winning film will be presented during the live, nationally televised show, broadcast in the US by National Geographic Channel on Sunday, November 8 at 7.00pm PT, 10.00pm ET, and rebroadcast globally via National Geographic and the Fox Cable Networks.

"Breakthroughs in science and math often start with a new way of seeing things. The goal of this prize is to inspire young people to explain big ideas in math and science in new and novel ways, possibly opening all of our minds to the mysteries of the universe and leading to the breakthroughs of the future!" said Khan Academy founder Salman Khan.

In addition to creating and producing their own video entries, students participated in the peer-to-peer scoring of fellow students’ submissions. The short-listed video submissions were reviewed by Breakthrough Prize laureates and other leaders in science, technology, and education in association with Khan Academy.

"We asked students around the world to submit their thoughts on complicated matters in math and science, and they most certainly rose to the challenge," said Breakthrough Junior Challenge judge, author and educator Lucy Hawking. “It was a true delight to review the submissions and see such interesting takes on the subject matter.”

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, Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang, Yuri and Julia Milner, 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:

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to change education for the better by providing 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 surface and present these educational resources to students and teachers around the world. Our library of content covers kindergarten to early college math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and reaches into humanities with tutorials on economics, finance, music, philosophy, and art history. We have over 26 million registered students and to date, we have delivered over 580 million lessons and 3.8 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). CSHL has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education and is home to more than 600 researchers and technicians. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and programs for middle and high school students and teachers.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge has also partnered with Facebook, Google Science and Google Education, and 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.


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