TORONTO – It looks like the concept of “quantum tunnel” will take at least an hour to interpret – but it only took one from Fort McMurray, Alta. A three-minute teenager, in a video that won an international competition and generated new funding for her future and her school.
Maryam Tsegae, 17, used her passion for science to win the award winning in the latest Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a competition in which thousands of students from all over the world create short videos to express a scientific or math concept.
“It was really crazy, I couldn’t believe it at all when I found out,” Tsegay told CTV News on Wednesday. She was known to have won for two weeks, but had to keep it “low”, until the winner was announced on December 3.
The huge prize included $ 250,000 to go to school, a $ 100,000 science lab for her junior high school, and $ 50,000 for a science teacher.
Tsegay said she was “completely” surprised by the win.
She was in class at her school, Ecole McTavish Public School, at Fort McMurray, when she was surprised by a video message from two of the contest judges.
“My favorite [entry] Astronaut Scott Kelly said in the video: This was a very cool explanation of a complex topic called quantum tunneling.
When the two announced that she had won, Tsegai slapped her hands to her mouth, apparently in shock. It wasn’t long before she cried. The intimate moment was captured on camera and shared on the contest website this month.
“The door is wide open now,” her father said in an interview in this video. “She can go anywhere.”
“I decided to enter because I really specialize in science and science communication, and I believe in science communication,” Tsegay told CTV News.
“I chose quantum tunneling because it is a quantum phenomenon that I had never heard of before until I was looking for the contest, and it completely captured the whole topic and fell into a whirlpool of articles and everything.”
So what is a quantum tunnel?
In the winning video – which should have been less than three minutes – Tsegay began referring to a cheat code for a video game her brother had played, allowing the characters to navigate through walls.
“Imagine if you could walk through walls in real life!” She said in the video. “And it turns out that you can – on a quantitative level.”
Using short graphics and animations, I explained concepts that are difficult for many adults to understand. Quantum mechanics is about particles smaller than atoms that can move in very strange ways. Quantum tunneling, according to its video, is the term when electrons moving in a wave have a chance to cross a barrier rather than bounce, something that makes nuclear fusion – and thus life on Earth – possible.
If this sounds confusing, watching her video might help.
“I tried to explain that with video games, dice and things like that by analogy,” she said.
To win the award, she had to stand out among the approximately 5,600 students competing around the world. But she succeeded.
“[The judges] Tsegay said it was a really good explanation.
Catherine Vladika, Maryam’s teacher, is also a winner, earning $ 50,000 for her role in Tsegay’s Learning Process. In a video on Breakthrough, she said she is “very proud” of Tsegaye.
She said, “I took a really complicated idea and broke it very simply, and it was funny, and it was just – it was amazing.”
Tsegay said that Vladika was “one of her favorite teachers,” and that she “definitely deserves.” [the prize]. “
When it comes to subjects like science and mathematics, Tsegayi believes there is some “social conditioning” that makes accessing them seem more difficult.
“People have been told that science and mathematics are scary, which is what they tend to believe, but I think if it is explained correctly and handled differently, then a lot of children will participate in the science,” she said.
Science tries to answer everything in our world, everything we know and things we do not know. Why don’t you like science? “
Currently, she is applying to different universities, and trying to figure out where she wants to go to fulfill her dreams – but this award undoubtedly has opened new paths not only for her, but for future students in her high school who will be able to gain access to the new science lab.
Ecole McTavish Public High School has only about 900 students, according to its website, and it spans grades 7-12.
Scott Barr, principal, said in a video on the Breakthrough website that Tsegaye’s legacy at the school “will continue”.
“It will forever change the lives of the children in this building,” he said.