Senior Becomes Finalist in Global Video Contest


Image Courtesy of Andrew Li

Westside senior Andrew Li is competing for a $250,000 scholarship as well as $100,000 for a new lab at Westside High School.

In April of this year, senior Andrew Li entered the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a worldwide contest for all students in which the contestants have to make a video about a specific topic. This year, topics for the challenge include life sciences, physics, math or COVID-19. Rewards for winning the Breakthrough Junior Challenge are a $250,000 post-secondary scholarship, $100,000 for a lab in the winner’s school and $50,000 to a teacher of the winner’s choice. According to Li, he found out about the contest through his physics instructor at the time.

“Ms. [Judy] Stucky, my physics teacher, [introduced me to the contest],” Li said. “She sent me an email about the challenge and it immediately piqued my interest because I enjoy talking about science. I also like math and presenting stuff in [an] intuitive way. Math is seen as something very basic, like you just regurgitate a bunch of stuff. I wanted to kind of present it as, ‘math is not just that, it’s something else, it’s creative.’”

Li said that he wasn’t very interested in the contest initially, but eventually came around to the idea.

“I kind of put [the contest] on the back burner [at first] since I had a lot of remote school, but I knew it was something I wanted to do after I got everything done,” Li said. “Eventually when I started, I was, like, ‘This is something I really wanna do. It seems accessible, I have all this free time on my hands, so I can do something with that free time.’”

After Li started the video, he decided to take on a different approach and treat the contest more like a way to learn, which he thinks made his video better as a result.

“I didn’t know any of the animation or anything before [I started my video], but I decided that it would be a learning experience,” Li said, “I decided to find out how to use After Effects, Illustrate or Premier Pro, and I was really passionate about the presentation. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. It seemed like a great way to get into that type of stuff.”

Although Li said he is happy with the final product of his video, he doesn’t think he has a good shot of winning the entire contest. 

“I will tell you right now that there’s probably a 0% chance of me winning [the contest], mainly because there are some really good videos out there,” Li said. “If I do win, obviously I’ll get a huge sum of money, and it would be super cool to have a scholarship. I’d [also] be giving back to the community with the school’s lab, and I would help the teachers which helped me here. For me, I don’t know what’s ahead— I mean, it was a fun experience, but I don’t know [what I’ll do].”

According to Westside Communications Director Brandi Paul, the district is very proud of Li for his creative thinking and well-made video.

“We are exceedingly proud and excited for [Li], not just because of this honor of being a finalist, but to see what he accomplishes throughout his life,” Paul said. “[Li] is proving his creativity, his innovation and his leadership. We are proud to call him a Warrior.”

If you are interested in supporting Li in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, you can vote for him HERE.