Breakthrough Prize Foundation Announces Student Winner Of Seventh Annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge
Amber Kwok, 18, of Mauritius, Receives Top Honors and $400,000 in Education Prizes for Original Video on Van der Waals and Casimir Forces.
Watch Sal Khan and ALL the previous winners surprise this year’s winner Amber Kwok here.
December 20, 2021 – (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced Amber Kwok, 18, of Mauritius, as the winner of the seventh annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video competition designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics.
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge will award a total of $400,000 in educational prizes for Amber, her teacher and her school. Amber, who will be attending Stanford University in the fall of 2022, will win a $250,000 college scholarship. Her science teacher, Shastri Doorgah, will be given a $50,000 prize. The prize also includes a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000, designed by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Amber’s submission used real-life examples and original animations to explain Van der Waals and Casimir Forces. Her video can be viewed here.
“I learned about the Breakthrough Junior Challenge from Khan Academy and was instantly fascinated by the idea of explaining science through video,” Amber said. “I believe that science can expand our knowledge on the mysteries of the universe and help us find innovative solutions for today’s global issues. Winning the Challenge is a life-changing honor for me. I can’t wait to see what’s next and to explore the many exciting opportunities it will bring.”
Amber received news of her win during a surprise Zoom led by Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, a partner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. The call was also attended by all seven previous winners of the Challenge, many of whom joined remotely from their respective college campuses. During the discussion, previous winners shared in Amber’s excitement and explained how their own Challenge experiences positively impacted their lives.
Since its launch in 2015, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 202 countries. This year’s installment attracted more than 3400 applicants.
“One of the most interesting things about the Breakthrough Junior Challenge is that it’s a truly global competition,” said Julia Milner, one of the founders of the Breakthrough Prizes. “I’m excited that we have our first winner from the African region. Congratulations to Amber and to everyone who took the Challenge in a year when science has never been more important.”
“Amber represents the next generation of all-star science communicators” said Sal Khan. “In her video, she made a complicated subject matter compelling and relatable. Khan Academy is proud to partner with the Breakthrough Junior Challenge to encourage young people to explore science and apply their knowledge to foster discussions and seek solutions.”
For the seventh 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 life sciences, physics or mathematics. For this year’s challenge, participants had the option of entering a special submission section focused on Space Exploration. The winner of the top scoring Space Exploration Video will be announced on January 5.
Students from around the globe submitted their videos by June 25. After two rounds of judging - first, a mandatory peer review, followed by an evaluation panel - the field was narrowed in September to 30 semifinalists. These 30 competed in a Popular Vote on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, where the public was invited to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission by “liking,” “sharing,” or posting a positive reaction. Collectively, during the 15-day contest, the 30 videos reached more than ½ a million people on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, helping to teach and inspire minds across the globe.
The 2021 finalist videos were reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprising: Ian Agol, professor of mathematics, University of California, Berkeley, and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate; Rachel Crane, space and science correspondent, CNN; Pascale Ehrenfreund, president, International Space University; NASA astronaut and administrator, John Grunsfeld; author and educator Lucy Hawking; Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and principal, 100 Year Starship; retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly; Sal Khan, founder and CEO, Khan Academy; Ijad Madisch, CEO, ResearchGate; NASA astronaut Nicole Stott; Terence Tao, UCLA professor and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate; Esther Wojcicki, founder, Palo Alto High Media Arts Center; Pete Worden, chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation and executive director, Breakthrough Initiatives.
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 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.
The Breakthrough Prize
For the tenth year, the Breakthrough Prize, renowned as the “Oscars of Science,” recognizes the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics (one per year) and Mathematics (one per year). In addition, up to three New Horizons in Physics Prizes, up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes and up to three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes are given out to early-career researchers each year. Laureates attend a gala 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 were founded by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki. The Prizes have been sponsored by the personal foundations established by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Jack Ma, 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 breakthroughprize.org.
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. Our platforms include more than 70,000 practice problems as well as videos and articles that cover a range of preK–12 subjects. Our mastery-based learning system allows students to learn key concepts at a pace that’s right for them before moving on to more challenging content. Khan Academy Kids is our award-winning free app for young children ages two to eight. We partner with more than 280 school districts across the country that serve students who are historically under-resourced. Districts use Khan Academy Districts and MAP Accelerator powered by Khan Academy to help teachers differentiate instruction. Worldwide, more than 130 million registered learners have used Khan Academy in 190 countries and 51 languages. For more information, please see research findings about Khan Academy and our press page.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL)
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 www.cshl.edu.
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.
For more information, including competition rules, video submission guidelines and queries, go to: breakthroughjuniorchallenge.org.
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