Allen student is semifinalist in science contest with $400K in prizes

A 16-year-old Allen student is one of 30 semifinalists from thousands of applicants around the world in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an annual competition for college students to inspire creative thinking about science.

Alexander Kader, a homeschooled sophomore attending Collin College for double credit, created an original science video that put him in the running for $400,000 in prizes, including a college scholarship .

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge video competition encourages students to create engaging and imaginative videos that demonstrate difficult scientific concepts.

“Think: Steven Spielberg meets Albert Einstein,” said Ra’Nasia Sangster, publicist for the competition, in an email.

Kader’s video focuses on wobbling muons and their importance for the future of science. Muons are known to be particles that are slightly larger than electrons, spin imperfectly fast, and wobble as they spin, Sangster said.

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Kader said he was “thrilled, delighted and excited” to be included as a semifinalist.

“This is an amazing challenge with wonderful opportunities,” he said.

Kader said the topic piqued his interest months before he began work on the project.

“I was looking at several videos and came across one called ‘2021’s Biggest Breakthroughs in Physics’ and one of the topics mentioned was the Muon g-2 experiments,” he said. “I remembered an article I had read earlier and dug deeper into the topic before deciding on that topic for my video.”

Headshot by Alex Kader
Alexander Kader is one of 30 semi-finalists worldwide for a science video competition. The Allen student is homeschooled and attends Collin College. (Photo courtesy of Alexander Kader)(Family squad)

Kader said creating the video was “a long, tedious task.”

“I easily spent over 120 hours creating my video over a month,” he said.

Kader learned creative programming three years ago when his mother taught him how to use Photoshop to design a t-shirt for a competition his robotics team was running.

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From there he taught himself how to use various software programs from Adobe Creative Suite and learned film editing on Filmora before moving on to more advanced programs.

“I used DaVinci Resolve, Photoshop and After Effects for this video. My process for this video was to research and write a script first. I then took a very rough shot and added my effects. This served as a rough draft video,” he said. “Then, unplanned, I completely rewrote my script before adding my final effects.

“Fun fact: It took me four full days to create my default model animation, and I almost didn’t use it at the end.”

As for the teenager’s college plans? Although Kader is interested in science, he said he wants to go into engineering and then go to law school.

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Videos of the 30 semi-finalists can be seen on YouTube and Facebook, and the public can vote for a crowd winner in the Popular Vote Challenge until midnight today (September 20).

Entries include students from the United States, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, India, Iraq, New Zealand, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

The 15 best videos will be judged by a selection committee made up of physicists, scientists, academics and astronauts. The winner of the $250,000 grant will be announced in November.

Additionally, the science teacher who inspired the winner will receive $50,000 and the winner’s school will receive a $100,000 state-of-the-art science lab.

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