Brigham Young University freshman Brooklyn Clark from Santa Clara combined brains, humor, enthusiasm and self-taught video skills to win a finalist spot in the 4th Annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge — a physics, math and life sciences video competition for teenagers worldwide.
Clark, a 2019 graduate of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, is making big waves. She is one of the top 16 finalists — out of an initial 11,000 registrants.
The contest challenges high school students to create engaging, imaginative, even humorous, short videos (three minutes max) to demonstrate complex scientific concepts and theories.
Clark’s video, starring her brother, two sisters and herself, explains gravitational waves. View her video to learn about gravitational waves and their significance at https://breakthroughjuniorchallenge.org/winners.
Clark became interested in science in elementary school.
“I liked doing science experiments in elementary school. You can ask a science question and do research and find answers,” said Clark. “I always had this curiosity about the world, and science was the way I could learn more about it.
“All along the way in school, I’ve had great science teachers to help me and make me more interested in it. Mr. Dobos [Cory Dobos] at Wilcox was my last physics teacher,” continued Clark.
It was in Dobos’s class that Clark learned about gravitational waves. She heard about the Breakthrough Junior Challenge through Khan Academy, a nonprofit, free online learning resource for children and adults, too.
Clark made her first video for the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2018, but didn’t reach the finals. However, that didn’t stop her from trying again this year.
“Even if your video is not that good, it’s a great learning opportunity,” said Clark. “Making it was enjoyable.”
She believes that people learn better when the process is fun.
“I think when learning is fun, it’s more enjoyable and helps you learn better,” said Clark. “It helps you learn things that might be hard because you enjoy them.”
The 18-year-old is in a pre-professional mechanical engineering program at BYU in Utah and is considering a career in aerospace. She has some insights for high school students who might want to enter the 2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge.
“Finding the topic you’re interested in is a key factor. Then you can do the research,” said Clark, who used her mom’s phone and her dad’s computer with an iMovie app to make her video over about three weeks.
“I didn’t have the confidence that my video was finalist caliber, but even if you feel that your video is not that good, even if you don’t have confidence, you can be a winner,” said Clark. “You just need enough confidence to submit your entry.”
Clark was in the running for the $400,000 top prize, which would have been shared with her high school, and for the honor of appearing on stage with world-renowned scientists at the Breakthrough awards ceremony which were in Palo Alto on Nov. 3.
Visit www.breakthroughjuniorchallenge.org to find out where Clark’s video on gravitational waves placed in the final competition.