Each year, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge—a challenge created by Yuri Milner as part of the Giving Pledge—announces multiple regional champions. These champions are young adults who submit short videos that simplify complex scientific ideas in engaging, illuminating, and imaginative ways. Every year, one main winner is announced, along with winners from regions that include Asia, Central, and South America, North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, India and the Middle East, and Africa. Here are five individuals who have won this award in the past three years.
Holden Liu for “The Physics of the Alcubierre Warp Drive”
The winner of the popular vote for the regional champion of the North American region in 2021 was 16-year-old Holden Liu of Canada. His submission, “The Physics of the Alcubierre Warp Drive,” explored technology that warped space. Warping space is one of the scientific theories that help space travel become faster. Ultimately, this helps telescopes and cameras access parts of space that would normally take hundreds of years to reach. This allows scientists and space explorers to accomplish tasks within their lifetimes.
Wangari Mbuthia for “Hacking Inheritance: Gene Drives Explained”
The winner of the popular vote for the regional champion of the Middle East and African regions in 2021 was 18-year-old Wangari Mbuthia of South Africa. Her submission, “Hacking Inheritence: Gene Drives Explained,” details how people get the traits they have, such as eye color, hair color, and other traits. Dominant and passive traits are explored, as are lesser-known gene-related traits, such as selfish genetic inheritance.
Michael Nixon for “Cosmic Microwave Background: Our Invisible Past”
The winner of the popular vote for the regional champion of the Australian and New Zealand area in 2021 was 18-year-old Michael Nixon of Australia. His submission, “Cosmic Microwave Background: Our Invisible Past,” investigates exactly how television works and how we get the signals that transmit television shows onto our TVs. Such signals are called cosmic microwave backgrounds, and the video details more about this type of signal and how it has and will continue to impact people.
Jeff Winxin Collado for “Zoonotic Spillovers”
The winner of the popular vote for the regional champion of the Asia region in 2020 was 17-year-old Jeff Winxin Collado of the Philippines. His submission, “Zoonotic Spillovers,” discusses how an illness in an animal can be transmitted to a human and why certain germs can affect both humans and animals. An example of this would be COVID-19, which most researchers believe was spread from an animal to humans. Humans have also been able to spread the virus back to animals, such as cats.
Branko Malaver-Vojvodic for “Cryptography: The RSA Algorithm”
The winner of the popular vote for the regional champion in the Central and South American region in 2019 was 18-year-old Branko Malaver-Vojvodic of Peru. His submission, “Cryptography: The RSA Algorithm,” explores how numbers are used to create encryption technology. Today, this system is what is used for secure transmission of confidential documents and data online but originated in a much simpler fashion when encoding war documents and other top secret materials.
Yuri Milner is the creator of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. He came up with the idea after he decided to donate at least half of his wealth to scientific causes as part of the Giving Pledge. This challenge rewards teenagers for thinking about science and math in creative and innovative ways, while also helping make hard-to-understand theories and topics easier to digest for other young people who come across the videos. Since 2015, teens from all over the world have been participating in this challenge, and Yuri Milner hopes the competition continues for decades to come.