Why Mark Zuckerberg Just Gave This High School Student $400,000 The answer combines science and YouTube.

By Laura Entis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

North Royalton City Schools | Facebook | Nat Geo
Breakthrough Junior Challenge, 18-year-old Ryan Chester, of North Royalton, Ohio.

The Breakthrough Prize program, founded in 2012 by Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcikci, Jack Ma and Mark Zuckerberg, among others, was created to give scientists the rock-star treatment. The organization's annual award ceremony, held last night in Mountain View, Calif., did not disappoint.

Over the course of an evening that included food by French Laundry chef Thomas Keller and a performance by Pharrell Williams, a total of $21.9 million was handed out in prizes. The recipients included an evolutionary geneticist, a mathematician, an Alzheimer's researcher and – a high school student.

Ryan Chester, 18, is a senior at North Royalton High School in Ohio. He's also the winner of the inaugural Breakthrough Junior Challenge, funded in part by a grant from Zuckerberg, which asks young people between the ages of 13 and 18 to create short videos that communicate big ideas in life sciences, physics and math.

Chester's submission – a 7 minute video that breaks down Einstein's theory of Special Relativity – beat out more than 2,000 applications from 86 countries.

Related: High School Students 3-D Printed a Custom Wheelchair to Help This Resilient Little Kitten

The video is low-key, humorous and, for such a complex theory, (relatively) easy to follow. Set in and around a suburban backyard, it illustrates why space travelers experience time more slowly than we do back on earth with the help of a bowl of popcorn, a minivan, homegrown special effects and a hand-drawn diagrams.

As a Breakthrough Prize winner, Chester receives $250,000 in educational prizes. Meanwhile, an award of $50,000 goes to his science teacher and $100,000 goes to his school so that it can build a custom science lab.

Like most seniors, Chester is thinking about where he wants to go to college. Winning the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has significantly increased his options.

"I'm looking at colleges that have a great film school program as well as science," he told USA Today. "I was looking at Ohio University, so I could maybe get a scholarship and not have crazy student loans. But now I'm looking at NYU and Northwestern. I guess everything's open to me now."

Related: Turning Time Into Currency at Age 23

Wavy Line
Laura Entis is a reporter for Fortune.com's Venture section.

Editor's Pick

A Father Decided to Change When He Was in Prison on His Son's Birthday. Now His Nonprofit Helps Formerly Incarcerated Applicants Land 6-Figure Jobs.
A Teen Turned His Roblox Side Hustle Into a Multimillion-Dollar Company — Now He's Working With Karlie Kloss and Elton John
3 Mundane Tasks You Should Automate to Save Your Brain for the Big Stuff
The Next Time Someone Intimidates You, Here's What You Should Do
5 Ways to Manage Your Mental Health and Regulate Your Nervous System for Sustainable Success

Related Topics


Working Remote? These Are the Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls.

Growing a Business

The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

All too often, meetings run longer than they should and fail to keep attendees engaged. Here's how to run a meeting the right way.

Business News

Amazon Might Soon Be Adding Ads to Prime Video

The company wants to generate more ad revenue for its streaming service.

Business News

'I Am Just Floored': Woman Discovers She Won $1 Million Lottery Prize While Checking Her Email at Work

Initially, she thought the email was a scam, but went to lottery headquarters and walked away with a six-figure check after taxes.


How to Identify and Handle Toxic Business Leadership

Toxic business leaders are the danger of modern corporate life. Unfortunately, they may hide behind good reputations. Let's discuss four signs of toxic leadership and strategies to deal with it.

Business News

South Park Creators Spent 'Infinity Dollars' Renovating Iconic Colorado Restaurant, Set to Reopen Soon

Casa Bonita, a long-time favorite of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, went bankrupt during the pandemic. The duo purchased and painstakingly renovated the Mexican spot "like a piece of art," Stone said.