The Junior Academy | The New York Academy of Sciences

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The Junior Academy

The Junior Academy
“The journey of meeting friends and collaborating as a team to solve challenges is the best part of the Junior Academy.” – JA Student ‘16
The Junior Academy
“I like working with a global team I never met before and getting to know different people and their cultures, while tackling a vital issue.” – JA Student ‘16

The Junior Academy is an elite group of problem solvers made up of talented students, STEM experts, and companies around the world dedicated to designing innovative solutions to global challenges.

Each year, we invite students ages 13–18 to join The Junior Academy. Successful applicants gain lifelong access to exclusive educational opportunities and a remarkable global STEM network through Launchpad, a virtual collaboration platform.

Students develop advanced research, innovation, and collaboration skills with best-in-class learning resources and leverage these skills to compete in 70-day challenges sponsored by industry-leading companies.

Challenge Topics

  • Nutrition, Agriculture, and Food Systems
  • Public Health and Well-being
  • Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
  • Sustainability and Climate Change
  • Energy
  • Biodiversity
  • Space
  • Education
  • Equity
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Economic Development and Entrepreneurship
  • Security and Resilience


  • Gain access to a global network of exceptional students and STEM professionals
  • Build your personal profile to showcase skills and accomplishments
  • Acquire first-hand experience in applying science & technology solutions to real-world challenges
  • Earn a certificate of completion

Statistics to date

  • Student Applicants: 11,000
  • Students Accepted: 1,360
  • Countries Represented: 112


Each summer, Junior Academy participants will gather at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City for the annual Global STEM Alliance Summit. Challenge winners will receive all-expense-paid trips to attend the Summit, as well as prizes and special recognition at the event. The two-day Summit will include a variety of New York City cultural experiences, as well as opportunities to build useful connections with STEM mentors and professionals.

The Junior Academy
“The challenges really motivated me to do something. I discussed it in school and in my research class and clubs!! The challenges are always great and interesting.” – JA Student ‘16
The Junior Academy
“The Junior academy helped me contribute to solving an important worldwide issue with peers from around the globe, and taught me how to conduct better research” – JA Student ‘15

Challenge Structure

Twice a year, in January and September, Junior Academy students are invited to participate in a set of innovation challenges. Each challenge is preceded by a bootcamp designed to equip them with the skills needed to effectively develop research-driven solutions to global problems.

All Junior Academy participants are required to participate in at least one challenge during their first year. Bootcamp participation is optional but recommended.


  • Build Skills During Bootcamp - In preparation for challenges, students gain access to best-in-class learning resources to develop relevant skills in areas such as research methods, design thinking, and data analysis.
  • Work With Experts - Teams have access to STEM professionals with expertise in relevant subject areas, and may choose to work with a dedicated mentor throughout the challenge process.
  • Solve Real-world Problems - Students work to develop solutions to real-world problems that can have an immediate impact.

Challenge Process

  • Launch - We release a statement at the beginning of each challenge highlighting the problem, potential areas to investigate, success criteria, and information on the sponsoring company and judges.
  • Problem Definition – Each challenge team will define the problem they want to solve, learn as much as they can about contributing factors, work together to brainstorm solutions, and design a test concept.
  • Prototype Building – Teams create a prototype or model of their solution, test it, and analyze the results.
  • Solution Presentation – Teams modify their prototype based on test outcomes, re-test and refine it, then create and deliver a presentation to share their solution.

Upcoming Challenges

Visit our collaborative learning platform Launchpad to learn more about our challenges and current student projects.

The Junior Academy
“I loved getting to meet new people and interacting with mentors from various fields of STEM. Getting to collaborate with them was very eye-opening and rewarding experience.”– JA Student ‘15
The Junior Academy
“What I liked most about my experience in The Junior Academy was being able to make a difference in the world through my team's project.”– JA Student ‘15

Application Requirements

The ideal Junior Academy participant is an enthusiastic learner and problem solver with a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). He or she has a desire to learn more about the universe, and aspires to help address the world’s most pressing challenges through research and collaboration.

  • Age: Students must be 13–18 years old.
  • Location: The program is virtual and open to students anywhere in the world. All participants must have access to a computer and a reliable internet connection.
  • Language: All program content and communication is in English, and a strong level of English proficiency is required. Students’ English proficiency will be assessed before they are accepted into The Junior Academy.
  • Teacher Recommendation: Students must receive a written endorsement from an educator to participate.
  • Time Commitment: Students are expected to dedicate approximately two hours per week during challenge periods.
  • Cost: None. All costs are covered by our generous funders.
The Junior Academy
“Working with students .. “...was a win win I think. We motivated each other as we were in this to make a difference and I (and the team) believe we did. Their brilliance and relentless work ethic have produced something that I truly think is going to change the world. That's awesome and inspiring. We are all so pumped because of that!” – JA Mentor ‘15
The Junior Academy
“I sincerely enjoy working with enthusiastic young scientists! It was so much fun. It was also really great to see how my feedback was able to guide the progression of the project and see how it really helped the development of the final solution.” – JA Mentor ‘15

Getting Involved

STEM experts can engage with The Junior Academy community in a number of ways.

Ten-week challenges begin in October and February, and are preceded by four-week bootcamps. Bootcamps provide opportunities for students to build relevant skills in advance of a challenge. During this time, STEM experts may choose to help lead learning activities, including lectures on challenge-related topics, lessons on research methods and design thinking, and team-building exercises.

During challenge periods, STEM experts can choose to engage in two ways. First, experts can become mentors by working with one or more teams for the duration of the challenge, guiding them through the process, and providing in-depth feedback and individualized support. Second, experts can make themselves available to all challenge participants by answering questions and providing expert feedback upon request.

The next challenge will begin in September.

What are the goals of the program?

  1. Excite and inspire exceptional students to pursue STEM careers by showcasing real-world applications
  2. Connect STEM-interested students with a network of peers and professional role models around the world

What are the qualifications for becoming a mentor?

Qualified mentors for The Junior Academy are:

  • Graduate students, postdocs, or professionals working in a STEM-related field
  • Able to access at least one communication device with internet capabilities
  • Passionate about engaging and inspiring the next generation of STEM innovators
  • Able to communicate clearly in spoken and written English
  • Experienced in conducting original scientific research (preferred but not required)

How much time is involved?

All experts accepted to the program will be asked to complete a 1–2 hour training.

Once a challenge begins, experts should generally expect to spend 1–2 hours per week answering student questions and providing input on student projects. The timing of this is flexible based on your schedule.

Experts who choose to mentor a team should expect to dedicate up to 4 hours per week during the challenge period. The scheduling of this may be less flexible depending on the availability of your team.

Throughout the year, we may ask experts to participate in focus groups and surveys. These are optional, and can range from a few minutes to a couple of hours. All mentors are required to attend a final debrief session at the end of a challenge.

Application Process and Program Participation

  1. Submit your application (reviewed throughout the year)
  2. Complete interviews & background checks
  3. Go through program training and onboarding
  4. Participate in bootcamps (starting in September or January)
  5. Participate in challenges (starting in October or February)

Click here to start your application today!

The Junior Academy
The Junior Academy

Exclusive Challenge Sponsor


Work closely with the GSA team to create a custom challenge around a topic of importance to your company or organization. The challenge will be exclusively branded for your company.

  • Prominent recognition on The Junior Academy webpage and marketing materials
  • Press release announcing your company as a challenge underwriter
  • Exclusive branding on the challenge
  • Customized mentorship opportunities for your employees
  • Opportunity to attend and provide remarks at the GSA Summit
  • Opportunity to nominate 1-2 company employees to the challenge judging panel
  • Opportunity to host challenge finalists at your facilities during the GSA Summit

Challenge Sponsor


Your company can co-brand brand an already- developed Junior Academy challenge. The GSA team has a number of possible challenge topics from which to choose.

  • Recognition on The Junior Academy webpage and marketing materials
  • Mentorship opportunities for your company employees
  • Opportunity to attend and provide remarks at the GSA Summit
  • Opportunity to nominate 1 company employee to the challenge judging panel
  • Opportunity to host challenge finalists at your facilities during the GSA Summit
The Junior Academy

The Global STEM Alliance certifies programs that help students build STEM knowledge and 21st-century skills like critical thinking, creativity, and communication, to prepare them for college and career success. Evaluations are conducted by independent experts.​

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