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 an international cohort of passionate high school students (ages 13-17) to become part of The Junior Academy, who join 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 can work 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 collaborate with international peers to address the world's most pressing challenges.
- Age: 13–17 years old.
- Location: Virtual programming takes place 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.
Our general application cycle for students interested in joining will open in late August 2023 and students will be notified by end of August 2023-early September 2023. Please see below for Key Dates.
Please Note: Students who are already part of the Junior Academy on Launchpad do NOT need to apply again!
To build a community of exceptional young minds, we take the application process very seriously. Each year, we receive thousands of applications from all over the world. Every application undergoes a review to ensure passionate students are offered the opportunity to join The Junior Academy.
The general recruitment period will be open from August 14, 2023 to August 27, 2023. We will be reviewing applications and notifying students of their status in our program in early September 2023.
How Do I Apply?
To start and complete the online application, you'll need to:
- Provide your background information.
- Respond to essay questions.
- Submit parental or guardian consent forms
Admission decisions will be sent out by end of August 2023-early September 2023. 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.
What are the goals of The Junior Academy?
Excite and inspire exceptional students to pursue STEM opportunities by showcasing real-world applications
Connect STEM-interested students with a network of peers and professional role models around the world
Getting Involved as a Mentor
STEM experts and professionals who are STEM enthusiasts can engage with the community by serving as Mentors in the program. Mentors work with student teams on virtual Innovation Challenges in The Junior Academy.
Innovation Challenges are offered twice during the program year, in the Fall term and in the Spring term. Fall Challenges take place from mid-September to mid-November. Spring Challenges take place from mid-February to mid-April. You may choose to participate in either the Fall or the Spring or both during each program year.
During these ten-week challenges, Junior Academy students form international teams of up to six individuals and design innovative, research-driven solutions to pressing global problems. Student teams can choose to work with a mentor on their project. Mentors encourage and support the students as they move through the different phases of the scientific process – researching and brainstorming, proposing an innovative design, experimenting to test their hypothesis, analyzing feedback, and preparing a final presentation to communicate their solution to the world.
Mentors can choose to engage in two ways with students in Innovation Challenges. First, they may serve as a Dedicated Mentor to one or more teams for the duration of the challenge, guiding them through the process and providing in-depth feedback and individualized support. Second, they may serve as a Floating Mentor and be available to support all challenge participants by answering questions and providing expert feedback upon request.
What are the qualifications for becoming a mentor?
Qualified mentors for The Junior Academy are:
- Undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, or professionals working in a STEM-related field
- Passionate about engaging and inspiring the next generation of STEM innovators
- Able to access at least one communication device with internet capabilities
- Able to communicate clearly in spoken and written English
- At least 18 years of age
- Experienced in conducting original scientific research (preferred but not required)
How much time is involved?
All Mentors accepted to the program should expect to spend 1-2 hours on orientation and training at the start of their first program term.
During the challenge period, mentors should generally expect to spend 1–2 hours per week answering student questions, providing input on projects, or meeting with teams. The timing of this is flexible, and is based on your schedule. This work and communication can be done both synchronously and asynchronously.
Throughout the year, we may ask mentors to participate in focus groups and surveys. These are optional, and can range from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Application Process and Program Participation
- Submit your application. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis. All submitted applications will be reviewed twice a year and decisions will be shared prior to the upcoming term.
- Application Review and Decisions will take place each August for the upcoming Fall Challenges.
- Application Review and Decisions will take place each January for the upcoming Spring Challenges.
- Participate in the Junior Academy Innovation Challenges as a Mentor.
- Fall Challenges take place from mid-September to mid-November.
- Spring Challenges take place from mid-February to mid-April.
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.