It's not every day that a high schooler gets to make his mark in the scientific world, but 18-year-old Ryan Chester from the North Royalton High School did just that when he bagged the Breakthrough Junior Challenge prize Sunday, Nov. 8.
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is considered to be the "kid-focused offshoot" of the larger Breakthrough Prize that recognizes contributions in the fields of fundamental physics, mathematics and life sciences.
The award was established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his Dr. Priscilla Chan, Google founder Sergey Brin, Russian businessman Yuri Milner, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and other collaborators.
Chester earned the award for his creation of a seven-minute video, titled "Some Cool Ways to Understand the Special Theory of Relativity and What It Means About Time," which tries to explain one of the most recognizable works of famed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.
"I made a film that explains (Albert Einstein's) special theory of relativity, which is a pretty difficult concept to understand based on what it implies about time," the Ohioan teen said.
Chester's main goal with the video is to allow casual viewers to easily understand how speed-of-light travel, such as through space, can result in the slowing of an individual's aging compared to that of a person on Earth.
Special Theory of Relativity Video
According to Chester, Einstein's theory on special relativity can be considered as one of the most groundbreaking concepts in physics and has often been cited in many science books and magazines over the years.
He said that the theory has always been mentioned together with the idea of traveling forward in time if one can only move fast enough.
It has also been featured in science movies and television programs so frequently that Chester said he has accepted the theory without fully understanding the truth behind it. This is what inspired the Ohioan teen to explore the special theory of relativity even further.
In his film, Chester makes use of graphic illustrations and other physical demonstrations to convey the message that time is not as constant as many people think. A person who travels through space for years would return to Earth only to find that he did not age much compared to people he left behind on the planet.
The Breakthrough Prize committee awarded a $250,000 scholarship to Chester, $50,000 to Richard Nestoff, Chester's AP physics teacher and $100,000 to the North Royalton High School to upgrade its science laboratory.
"Mark and I are incredibly committed to investing in science," Breakthrough Prize co-founder Priscilla Chan, said. "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."