The Stevens Initiative is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
Join our network of problem solvers!
The Junior Academy
What is The Junior Academy?
The Junior Academy is a passionate community of problem solvers made up of talented students, STEM experts, and industry leaders from around the world. Junior Academy members are elite students and mentors who are dedicated to designing innovative solutions to society’s greatest challenges!
How does it work?
Each year, the New York Academy of Sciences selects 1,000 of the worlds brightest high school students (ages 13-17) to become part of The Junior Academy, joining a dynamic global network of like-minded peers and mentors. Students work together on Launchpad, the Academy’s unique, online platform. Launchpad enables students and STEM professionals to collaborate virtually as they compete in project-based challenges focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to competing in global challenges, students develop STEM and research experience while advancing vital 21st-century skills such as leadership, communication, and collaboration.
Junior Academy students work together on challenges in self-selected, international teams of up to 6 members. Each team is paired with a STEM professional who serves as a mentor for the duration of the 10-week challenge period. Our mentors are all highly motivated STEM leaders from academia, industry, and research.
The Academy presents challenges twice per year. Challenges run from September through December and again from January through May.
Innovators Like You Around the World
Check out the map below to see where our Junior Academy members are located!
Why The Junior Academy?
The Junior Academy connects students, experts, and industry leaders through the Academy’s virtual collaborative learning platform, Launchpad.
Launchpad is where all of our programming takes place and where we host our in-depth discussions, challenges, expert talks and more. This platform was built specifically to support The Junior Academy network- there’s nothing else like it!
Create Innovative Solutions to Society’s toughest Challenges
The Junior Academy is a project-based learning program for students interested in creating solutions to real-world issues. Students in the program are invited to participate in 10-week challenges which take place twice a year. During these challenges students form international teams and work with STEM experts who mentor them as they design solutions. Challenge winners receive prize packages at the end of the Fall and Spring Challenge cycles.
Challenges take place twice a year, beginning in September and again in January. Challenges are preceded by a 4-week bootcamp, which provides preparation for the challenges and builds relevant skills in areas such as research methods, design thinking, and data analysis.
Once a challenge begins, students will self-select into teams and gain access to STEM professionals who will serve as mentors, guiding teams throughout the challenge process.
STEM experts serve as judges who score each solution and choose a winning team. Challenge winners receive a prize package and be featured in the Global STEM Alliance Summit!
Junior Academy participants are enthusiastic learners and problem solvers with a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). They have a desire to learn more about the universe, and aspires to help address the world’s most pressing challenges through research and collaboration.
- Age: 13–17 years old.
- Location: Online on our Launchpad platform.
- Language: All program content and communication on the platform is in English, and a strong level of English proficiency is required. Students’ English proficiency will be assessed during the application process.
- Time Commitment: Three to four hours each week during challenge periods.
- Cost: None. The Junior Academy is completely free for participating students.
To build a community of exceptional young minds, we take the application process very seriously. Each year, we recieve thousands of applications from all over the world. Every application undergoes a rigorous review to ensure students with the most potential are offered the opportunity to join The Junior Academy.
Applications for Spring 2022 are now open. Applications are open from April 27th to June 30th 2022. We will be making decisions and notifying students about their applications in August of 2022.
How Do I Apply?
To start and complete the online application, you’ll need to:
- Provide your background information.
- Respond to essay questions.
Admission decisions will be sent out by end of August 2022. Your application to our virtual programs will be reviewed during the summer so please check for emails from SM Apply. All applications must be submitted in English and parental or guardian consent forms must be signed. Once all the information is verified, an email invitation will be sent to you to join Launchpad this Fall.
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.
What are the goals of the program?
- Excite and inspire exceptional students to pursue STEM careers by showcasing real-world applications
- 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
- Submit your application (April 27th 2022- June 30th 2022)
- Complete interviews & background checks July and August
- Go through program training and onboarding
- Participate in bootcamps (starting in September or January)
- Participate in challenges (starting in October or February)
The Junior Academy is completely free for participating students thanks to the generosity of our sponsors! Read about how STEM Challenges are valuable for mentors as well as for students.