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The Breakthrough Prize today announced the top 29 student semifinalists in the third annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, and kicked off the ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition, posting all videos online for public review on the Breakthrough Facebook page.


The 29 semifinalists represent the top submissions following a review by an evaluation panel, in addition to top scorers from each of eight geographical regions. The eight regions are: North America (US / Canada)Central America/Mexico/CaribbeanSouth AmericaEurope, Asia (including China)IndiaMiddle East/AfricaAustralia/New Zealand.

In total, the 29 semifinalists hail from all around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, India, Mexico, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Panama, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Republic of Korea, Lebanon, the Philippines, Bolivia and Belgium.

The 2017 installment of the global competition attracted more than 11,000 registrants – from 178 countries – and resulted in more than 3,200 video submissions. The contest is designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, or mathematics.

All 29 semifinalists will compete in the ‘Popular Vote’ contest, open until Thursday, November 2 at 11:59 PM PT.  The ‘Popular Vote’ contest invites the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission on the Breakthrough Facebook page. Votes can be cast by “liking,” “sharing,” or issuing a “positive reaction” to the videos on the official Breakthrough Prize Facebook page.  The top scorer in the ‘Popular Vote’ challenge will receive automatic entry into the finalist round, which will be revealed on Friday, November 3.

The finalists will be reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprised of: Breakthrough Prize laureates; Salman Khan, CEO, Founder, Khan Academy; author and educator Lucy HawkingDr. Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal, 100 Year Starship; Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Gene and The Emperor of All MaladiesA Biography of Cancer, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize; Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study; Rachel Crane, Space and Science Correspondent, CNN; John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, University College London; Ijad Madisch, CEO, Co-Founder, ResearchGate; Jason Silva, National Geographic Channel Television Host, Filmmaker; Pete Worden, Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation, Executive Director, Breakthrough Starshot; Esther Wojcicki, Founder, Palo Alto High Media Arts Center; and Terence Tao, Professor of Mathematics, UCLA.

The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be announced at the 2017 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in early December, and will be awarded a $250,000 scholarship.  The science teacher who inspired the winning student will win a $50,000 prize.  The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.

For the third year, students ages 13-18 were invited to create original videos (up to three minutes in length) that illustrated a concept or theory in the physical or life sciences. The submissions were evaluated on the students’ ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in the most engaging, illuminating, and imaginative ways.

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 the 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.


Press release by the Breakthrough Prize