Iqaluit teen a semifinalist in worldwide science contest

Katie Yu, 16, created video that describes affects of space on the human body

Iqaluit high school student Katie Yu has made it to the semifinals of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an annual global competition for science videos. Yu’s video is about how being in space affects the human body. (Photo courtesy of Katie Yu)

By David Lochead

Iqaluit’s Katie Yu is one of 30 semifinalists in a global science contest that drew more than 2,400 participants from around the world.

Yu, 16, took part in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, which is a science video competition for peoples ages 13 to 18. Contestants are tasked with creating a 90-second video that explains a scientific concept or theory.

“It is pretty crazy to see myself there,” she said of the achievement.

The contest comes with the chance to earn more than $525,000 in prizes, which includes a full scholarship to university, as well as a science lab for the contestant’s school. Yu is one of two Canadians left in the competition.

In her video, Yu describes the effects of space on the human body.

She explains why gravity is so important for human biological function. Muscles are strengthened by fighting gravity, and even the heart — which is a muscle — shrinks in space because without gravity, it takes less power to pump blood.

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Yu, who is in Grade 11, also talks about how high radiation levels in space can break strands of DNA and cause damage to the nervous system.

She got creative in the visual representations of these ideas. To show how to keep muscles strong in space, she acted out exercises. She also created a simulated strand of DNA out of clay to visualize the effects of radiation on the human body.

Yu said she specifically enjoyed making clay visuals.

“[I was] just finding fun and original ways to show things,” she said.

She actually submitted a longer version of the video for last year’s contest but that year the time limit was three minutes, so deciding what to cut presented a challenge this time.

“Just putting everything together and making sure it flows well,” Yu said of the editing process.

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Another challenge involved visualizing the scientific processes. Without top-level video software, she had to rely on her own creativity and whatever she could use in her iMovie editing program.

This isn’t Yu’s first notable achievement: She was one of the winners of a writing contest that was featured in the New York Times in June.

For the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, the contestant whose video gets the most votes will make it directly to the final, with voting ending Sept. 20.

Fifteen finalists are expected to be announced on Sept. 21 and a winner is tentatively scheduled to be named in November, according to the contest website.

While Yu has mentioned her project and voting on it to people close to her, she said she is not pressing to win.

She’s happy just to be make it to the semifinals.

“I’m pretty good with where it is,” Yu said.


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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Charlotte on

    Where can I vote? Great video, way to go Katie!

    • Posted by Corinne Sternlieb on

      Katie Yu gets my vote — I love her creativity and her natural ability to teach.
      Her comments about deciding how to illustrate her ideas reminds me of my older brother, who was sent to Nepal to teach science to boys. His classroom turned out to be a meadow in the Himalayas: no chairs, blackboard, chalk, or books. First lesson was about “cells”. How to describe a cell in Nepali? He saw a wasp’s nest and realized it was the perfect illustration of how larger things are made of cells one can’t easily see. Katie Yu has that same kind of creative thinking, using what is at hand and familiar. I am sure she will continue to enjoy her work and prosper. I vote for Katie Yu!

  2. Posted by Patrick Greenaway on

    Congratulations young Lady ?you are a credit to your Family, your School, your Community and your Country.
    Proud of you and your accomplishments!

  3. Posted by Francine Giroux on

    J’aimerais voir la vidéo de Katie. J’ai travaillé avec les inuits et je pense qu’ils ont beaucoup de talent.

  4. Posted by Hill Haga on

    Fantastic achievement! Good luck in the semifinals! Where do we vote?

  5. Posted by Pauloosie on

    Uakallangaa! So expert!

  6. Posted by Hernan on

    Hi everyone,
    From what I gather, you just have to “Like” her video on Youtoube (or maybe Facebook?).
    I noticed that she has many views but not as many “likes” yet, so we need to click on those likes! She did an amazing job!


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