Seventh Annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge Opens Today For Student Submissions

2021 Breakthrough Junior Challenge Welcomes Videos on Space Exploration, in Recognition of the 60th Anniversary of the First Human Space Flight, Along with Topics in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics.

Contest Open to All Students Ages 13-18; Submissions Accepted Today Through June 25.

San Francisco – April 1, 2021 – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced the launch of its popular, global video competition for students – the Breakthrough Junior Challenge – now in its seventh year.

To participate in the Challenge, students ages 13 to 18 are invited to create and submit an original video that explains a favorite scientific concept or theory that falls within the category of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, or Mathematics. Submissions will be accepted today through Friday, June 25.

New this year, students can opt to focus a video specifically on Space Exploration, provided the particular subject matter fits within one of the original three categories (Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics). The Space Exploration topic is in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin, which occurred on April 12, 1961.

Launched in 2015, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge is designed to inspire creative thinking among young people about Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics. Conducted annually, the contest encourages students from around the world to create and submit original, three minute videos that explain a favorite scientific theory or concept. Last year’s contest, held during the COVID-19 pandemic, included a special, one-time category devoted to pandemic science, and attracted more than 5,600 applicants from 124 countries. Since its launch, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 202 countries.

“The Breakthrough Junior Challenge provides students with an opportunity to tell their favorite science stories in a compelling, imaginative way,” said Sal Khan, Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, partner with the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. “We encourage students to submit videos on their favorite science topics, and in doing so, they’ll have lively discussions with other entrants from around the world.”

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is also partnering with accomplished Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen and the ‘Magnus Carlsen Invitational.’ The partnership was devised to promote space exploration and chess – two pursuits that have generated widespread public enthusiasm in the past, and are growing increasingly popular once again.

As in years past, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will hold an opportunity for the public to vote on their favorite videos during a “Popular Vote” that will run from Sunday, September 5 to Monday, September 20. The 2021 Popular Vote will produce two top scorers – one representative of the overall general science submissions, and another from the Space Exploration section.

During the Popular Vote, a total of 30 videos will be posted online to the Breakthrough Junior Challenge Facebook page, YouTube page, and web site. The full group will comprise 20 general science videos (including the top two videos from each region listed below), and up to 10 Space Exploration videos, as determined by the Evaluation Panel judging.

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

At the conclusion of the contest, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will honor two outstanding submissions – declaring one overall Challenge winner, and recognizing one Space Exploration Champion.

The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be awarded a $250,000 college scholarship, $50,000 for the science teacher who inspired them, and a state-of-the-art science lab for their school, valued at $100,000 and conceived by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The Space Exploration Champion will receive the opportunity to attend a rocket launch on a date to be determined in 2022, organized by Rocket Lab.

Eligible space topics could include:

  • For Life Sciences

    The effect of space flight on human physiology; Issues regarding long-term human habitation away from Earth; Space exploration to search for life on other planets or moons, such as on Mars, Venus or beyond our Solar System.

  • For Fundamental Physics

    Spacecraft propulsion – for example chemical fuel, nuclear fuel, antimatter or other methods; Space-time trajectories, effects of relativity, the limits on the speed of travel; Gravitational potentials, gravity wells, and Solar System and interstellar exploration – the science of achieving mission goals.

  • For Mathematics

    Spacecraft orbits, escape velocities; Mathematical investigations of the possibilities and pitfalls of space exploration; The Tsiolkovsky rocket equation.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be open for submissions beginning on Thursday, April 1 through Friday, June 25. All 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.


Breakthrough Junior Challenge

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge, founded by Yuri and Julia Milner, is a global science video competition, aiming 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.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Our platform includes more than 70,000 practice problems as well as videos and articles that cover a range of K–12 subjects. Khan Academy allows students to learn key concepts at a pace that’s right for them before moving on to more challenging content. We partner with school districts across the country and around the world that serve students who are historically under-resourced. In the United States, school districts use Khan Academy Districts and MAP Accelerator to help teachers differentiate instruction. Khan Academy Kids is an award-winning free app for children ages two to eight. Nearly 20 million learners use Khan Academy every month in 190 countries and 50 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, please see research findings about Khan Academy and our press page.

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

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab provides end-to-end mission services, including complete satellite build and launch solutions, that provide rapid, frequent and reliable access to space. Rocket Lab will launch thousands of small satellites to orbit, enabling vital science, research and services from orbit including weather monitoring, communications, technology demonstrations and Earth-observation.

Play Magnus Group

Play Magnus Group is a global leader in the chess industry focused on providing premier digital experiences for millions of chess players and students. The company offers e-learning and entertainment services via its market leading brands: chess24, Chessable, iChess, CoChess, the Play Magnus App Suite, and the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The Group’s mission is to grow chess to make the world a smarter place by encouraging more people to play, watch, study, and earn a living from chess.