Breakthrough Junior Challenge Adds New Category On Pandemics For Sixth Annual Contest

As World Grapples with COVID-19, High School Students Around the World Encouraged to Explore the Timely Topic in Original Videos for Chance to Win College Scholarship.

Contest Open to All Students Ages 13-18; Submission Period Begins Now Through Thursday, June 25.

SAN FRANCISCO – April 14, 2020 – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced that the sixth iteration of its global video competition for students – the Breakthrough Junior Challenge – will include a special submission section focused on the science of pandemics.

The contest – launched in 2015 and returning in 2020 in the midst of the worldwide health crisis – was designed to inspire creative thinking among young people about the fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics. By establishing the new pandemic section, contest organizers are giving students the option of exploring a number of the themes that ring especially relevant today, including epidemiology, virology, modeling a pandemic, the mathematics of exponential growth, the science of pandemics (bubonic plague, 1918 influenza, etc.), immunology, and biostatistics.

The submission period opened today and will extend through Thursday, June 25. The challenge will have a presence on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, Khan Academy, and the YouTube Learning Channel Learn@Home.

STEM activist, model and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss narrates a launch video that presents all of the pertinent Breakthrough Junior Challenge details, which can be found here. Kloss, an avid supporter of science education and the founder of “Kode with Klossy”, is joined in the video by former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Khan Academy Founder Sal Khan, and popular YouTube personalities “Physics Girl” Dianna Cowern, and Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapScience.

“Most students are experiencing significant disruptions in their everyday learning as a result of COVID-19”, said Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, partner with the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. “The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is providing students with a unique new opportunity to more deeply understand pandemics, and to channel their energy for good by creating individual videos that can inform and inspire their peers.”

The three original topic areas – life sciences, physics and mathematics – will remain eligible, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic category, and submission criteria will follow past guidelines:

  • Students ages 13 to 18 from countries across the globe are invited to participate by creating original videos;
  • Videos must be up to three minutes in length, and illustrate a concept or theory of a student’s own selection;
  • Submissions will be judged on the individual students’ ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in the most engaging, illuminating and imaginative ways.

In addition to creating and producing their own video entries, competitors will participate in a round of peer-to-peer assessment, in which they will score some of their fellow Challengers’ submissions.

As in years past, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will also hold an opportunity for the public to vote on their favorite videos during a “Popular Vote” that will run from Saturday, September 5 to Sunday, September 20. The 2020 Popular Vote will produce two top scorers – one representative of the COVID-19 section and another of the overall general science submissions.

During the Popular Vote, a total of 40 videos will be posted online to the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Facebook page, YouTube page, and web site. The full group will comprise 10 Special COVID-19 videos and 30 general science videos (including the top two videos from each region listed below), as determined by initial marks from the internal Evaluation Panel.

In the Popular Vote, the video that accrues the highest number of combined likes, positive reactions (e.g. “love”, “haha”, “wow”), and Shares on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page will be declared top scorer. The seven regions are North America (US / Canada); Central America / Mexico / Caribbean / South America; Europe; Asia (including China); India; Middle East / Africa; and Australia / New Zealand.

Both the top-scoring COVID-19 video and the overall top-scoring general science video in the Popular Vote will automatically be placed in the final round of judging for the ultimate Breakthrough Junior Challenge winner. The creator of the top scoring COVID-19 video will also receive a special recognition.

Ultimately, one Breakthrough Junior Challenge winner will be recognized and awarded a $250,000 college scholarship. As in previous years, the winner will be announced at the annual Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony in Silicon Valley, details of which will be announced at a later date.

In addition, 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, designed by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and valued at $100,000.

All students must register at and submit complete entries by Thursday, June 25, 2020.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global competition 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

For the ninth year, the Breakthrough Prizes will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Laureates attend a live televised award ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions. The Breakthrough Prizes are sponsored by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki. Selection Committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates in each field choose the winners. Information on the Breakthrough Prize is available at


About Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy’s platform is free for students, teachers and parents, and includes thousands of interactive exercises, videos and articles that cover a range of K–12 subjects, as well as the early years of college. We also offer Khan Academy Kids, an award-winning free app for children ages two to seven. Our learning system is mastery based, which allows students to master key concepts at a pace that’s right for them before moving on to more challenging content. More than 18 million learners use Khan Academy every month in 190 countries and more than 40 languages. As a nonprofit, Khan Academy relies on donations from foundations, corporations and individuals around the world, as well as earned revenue. For more information, visit, or join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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

National Geographic Partners LLC

National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 131 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information, visit or, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.


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

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