One North Royalton teen not only gained national recognition and a hefty prize, but also brought wealth and notoriety back home. On November 8, The National Geographic Channel broadcasted the Breakthrough Prize program award ceremony, live from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tech investor Yuri Milner, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and genetic-testing company 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki founded the Breakthrough Prize in 2012. Since then, it has been known as the “Oscar of Science,” created to give recognition to those in science, physics and math. Since its founding, the Breakthrough Prize has awarded more than $160 million to some of the most brilliant minds in those fields.
At that ceremony, 18-year-old North Royalton High School student Ryan Chester was announced as the winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. Chester won $400,000 for his video submission over more than 2,000 applications from 86 countries. Dr. Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife and Sal Khan presented Chester with a $250,000 educational scholarship. His high school science teacher,
Richard Nestoff, will be presented an award of $50,000. In addition, the North Royalton High School will receive a $100,000 state-of-the art science lab, which will be designed by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in partnership with the North Royalton School District. New York State, Cold Spring Harbor is a not-for-profit, private research and education institution at the forefront of molecular biology and genetics. “Mark and I are incredibly committed to investing in science,” said Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife. “With the Breakthrough Prize and Junior Challenge, we want to inspire more young people to study science and math, and pursue careers that change all our lives.”
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge was a new category of the Breakthrough program this year. The category criteria offered an opportunity for those between the ages of 13 and 18 to create a video that would communicate big ideas in math, physics or science. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge was funded by a grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and a grant from Milner Global Foundation. More than $22.2 million in prizes was distributed to the winners. Chester joins a distinguished group this year that includes a mathematician, an evolutionary geneticist and an Alzheimers researcher.
Chester was one of eight finalists from the United States, four from Australia, one from Portugal, two from Canada. The submission from each finalist was scored on four criteria: engagement, illumination, difficulty, and creativity. Chester submitted a seven minute video, entitled Some Cool Ways of Looking at the Special Theory of Relativity. The video explains Einstein’s theory and addresses the question on time dilation, why do space travelers experience time more slowly than people on Planet Earth?
Upon accepting his award, Chester said, “going into my senior year of high school, I never would have expected I would be standing here. It means so much to me that winning this award not only helps me out, but also everyone back in my high school. I’ve always loved science and making films so for me, entering this challenge was rewarding in itself. This trophy is going to look pretty awesome in my dorm next year!” Chester’s video can be viewed at Some of his other works can be seen on
“Ryan, your curiosity and intellect was obvious since the first day of class,” said Richard Nestoff, Chester’s Advanced Placement Physics teacher. “What a privilege it is to pass along knowledge of the universe to people eager to learn. I’m proud of you, Ryan, and proud to be your teacher.”
“Ryan is a student who pushes himself academically and is involved in many activities,” said North Royalton High School Principal Sean Osborne. This push has also earned Chester a perfect ACT score of 36.
Contributing Writer