Why Mark Zuckerberg gave this teenager $400,000

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Tuesday 10 November 2015 17:30
Science and Tech

An 18-year-old high school student has been awarded $400,000 as part of a technology awards ceremony started by the founders of Alibaba, Google and Facebook.

Ryan Chester was given the Breakthrough Junior Challenge (BJC) award, part-funded by Mark Zuckerberg, at a ceremony where just under $22m (£14.5m) worth of prizes were handed out to those innovating in the tech sector.

As Entrepreneur.com explains, the BJC award asks "young people between the ages of 13 and 18 to create short videos that communicate big ideas in life sciences, physics and math(ematics)".

Chester, a senior at North Royalton High School in Ohio, won the inaugural award after submitting a seven-minute video explaining Einstein's theory of special relativity in his back garden - beating hundreds of other entries from over 90 countries.

Zuckerberg's partner Priscilla Chan, who also helped to set up the awards ceremony in Mountain View, California, told USA Today:

Mark and I are committed to advancing general human potential and simply making sure that everyone gets a fair shot, and science certainly is a big way to unleash the potential of children.

Often what’s difficult is making the leap from the theoretical to the practical. But when that can be effectively translated, like it is in Ryan’s video, then science really comes to life.

While Chester had been looking at studying in his home state because of the lower fees, the prize money has allowed him to set his sights further afield.

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.

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