Abbie Jin knew she wanted to create her video for the Breakthrough Junior Challenge global science competition about something relevant. She just so happened to be making it as the coronavirus gripped the nation in the spring.

Jin was selected as a semifinalist competing for $400,000 worth of prizes including a new science lab for Hamilton High School.

"I found out through a friend back in March or April, and I didn't really start getting into the research until the pandemic took a toll in Arizona," Jin said. "I wanted to base my video off something relevant to our time. In doing my research, a lot of people were talking about a new possible vaccination—the RNA vaccine. That was when I realized it would be an interesting topic."

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," according to the challenge website.

Jin spent hours making the script and editing the video and learning how to animate. She said she put a lot of time in but had fun while doing it and had a chance to pair her interest in drawing and life sciences to create the video. She also got to involve her younger brothers in the project.


All 30 semifinalists will compete in the "Popular Vote" contest, open now until Sept. 20 at 11:59 p.m. PST. The "Popular Vote" invites the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission on the Breakthrough Facebook page. The video with the highest number of combined likes, positive reactions, and shares will be declared top scorer. The top scorer will progress automatically to the final round of the competition, bypassing the next round of judging and entering the running for overall challenge winner.

The grand prize winner will take home $400,000 in prizes and appear alongside world-renowned scientists on stage at the Breakthrough Awards ceremony in Palo Alto, California, this spring. Jin said the prize money includes scholarship funds, a grant for a teacher of the student's choosing and the new science lab for the student's school.

"The prizes are incredible," Jin said. "I would encourage the community to vote for me on Facebook; I could use as much support as possible. I would also encourage them to check out the other videos. I think the organization has said they have received the highest-quality videos ever. It's a really great learning opportunity."

Jin’s video can be viewed here: www.facebook.com/560920623933298/videos/306587827270412.