The Challenge is an annual global competition for students ages 13 to 18. To enter, you must create a 3-minute video explaining a big scientific idea in Physics, Life Sciences, Mathematics, or specially for this year, COVID-19.
The winner takes home amazing prizes: a $250,000 scholarship, a $100,000 Breakthrough Science Lab, and a $50,000 prize for their teacher.
In 2016, I made the decision to join this competition. In 2017, I won—against all expectations. Little did I know how much that seemingly inconsequential decision would change my life.
This year, the Challenge is back! Given how amazing this opportunity is, I strongly encourage you to join! Now, you're likely on this site because in this video, I promised to help you out with tips, resources, and stories. Here, I shall deliver.
I put a lot of time into this because I know how challenging it is to join the competition. I'll also be updating this page over the next few weeks whenever I have time. I hope you find them helpful!
How long did it take you to do everything?
It took me a year to accomplish everything, from picking the topic to the finishing touches of the editing. I have the story fleshed out in a blog post somewhere.
What software did you use to edit?
I used Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects! (If I had a dollar every time someone asked me this question, I wouldn’t have needed the Breakthrough Prize scholarship to pay off a full $300,000+ MIT education loljk)
What camera did you use?
I used a Canon DSLR with a couple of different lenses for both of my 2016 and 2017 entries. I rented them from a friend so sadly, I can’t remember the specific model and lens types.
But don’t worry if you don’t have access to a DSLR! Any typical smartphone nowadays can match DSLR quality. Just make sure that your phone is stable when you’re filming! Use a tripod or slap the nearest five rigid bodies together to make DIY tripod (like what Antonella did here).
Do I need to mention all the resources I used even if they are publicly accessible?
Yes! I’d recommend playing safe and list all of the resources you used including but not limited to images, audio, video clips, books, articles, and so on. Check the description of my 2017 entry to see how I did it.
It’s extremely important to credit images, audio, and video in particular because you might run into copyright trouble otherwise. If you get into the semifinals, they do ask you for a list of these things so keep that in mind.
I’d recommend using public domain sites for your graphics and audio needs.
Where can I get photos, videos, and audio for free?
For stock photos, I used Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay, and Wikimedia Commons. I used Pond5 and archive.org for stock videos. I used YouTube Audio Library for music.
Make sure that the media you’re using is in the public domain or it has a relatively unrestrictive Creative Commons (CC) license.
The CC BY license is the most accommodating. So if a particular file is marked this way, you’re free to use, modify, and distribute it as long as you attribute the creator. Learn more about CC licenses here!
Will I be informed after every stage of judging about my current standing?
As far as I know, they don’t tell you if you got through the Peer Review round. From my experience, they only email you if you’ve been selected for the semifinals (Top 30). This is when they ask you for the attributions of the files you used. If you get to the finals (Top 15), they email you as well. There may or may not be an email for the Top 5 too.
After that, only the winner gets the email. I have to admit this is kinda sad as a finalist because you’re kept waiting for a long time (Believe me, this was agonizing as a 2016 finalist but it be like dat :().
At some point in the competition, you also get a notification (maybe certificate?) if you got scored within the Top 10% (not completely sure about this number) of all entries.
Do I have to read the Terms and Conditions?
Y E S Y E S Y E S. If there’s going to be one time when you’re actually going to read Terms and Conditions, this has to be it! To be honest, that was the only time I ever read Terms and Conditions in full too.
It’s not that long! Besides, you need to be fully aware about how the competition works. Aside from the Terms, read everything else on the site too!
HOW TO WIN (PART 1 & 2)
Part 1 is the video below. Part 2 is in a blog post here. These are from my own experience only. This may not be true for everyone but they’re what worked for me.
Here are some tips and advice I gathered and combined into a playlist of 20+ videos. Click on the top right corner to see the playlist! These are from my own experience, other winners, finalists, and semifinalists so you’re sure to have different perspectives.
Enjoy these 60+ exemplary science videos that you can use as inspiration to make your entry. Look for the effective elements (demos, visuals, script, etc.) in each of these videos and incorporate them into your own!
On getting chickenpox, shedding tears because of After Effects, having the power shut down minutes before the deadline, and other tales about my wild Challenge experience.