The Breakthrough Junior challenge’s goal is to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and mathematics. Yuri Milner, a Russian physicist, founded the challenge in 2015. The challenge consists of three rounds of judging. Students submit a three-minute video on a scientific or mathematical topic. A panel of judges selects the top 15 videos, which are then posted on the Breakthrough Junior Challenge website. The public can vote for their favorite video, and the top three videos with the most votes advance to the second round.

A panel of judges selects the top three videos from the public voting round in the second round. The finalists are flown to San Francisco, where they present their videos to a panel of celebrity judges. The celebrity judges select one grand prize winner, who receives a $250,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 prize for their teacher.

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory sponsors the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. The laboratory is a nonprofit research and education institution. It was founded in 1890 and has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine eight times. Khan Academy partners with the Breakthrough Junior Challenge to provide educational resources for students and teachers.


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Yuri Milner is the founder of DST Global, a venture capital firm, and Breakthrough Initiatives, a philanthropic organization that funds scientific research. Milner received a bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics from Moscow State University in 1985 and later worked at the Lebedev Physical Institute. After working as a research fellow at CERN, Milner returned to Moscow to work as a physicist at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics.