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Sheltering in place and finding herself with extra time on her hands, science lover and Fort McMurray, Alberta resident Maryam Tsegaye decided to enter the 2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge –– a prestigious international competition for high school students –– on a whim. The contest called for a 3-minute video explainer of a complex scientific concept, so using dice, music, and stick figure drawings, Maryam playfully broke down quantum tunnelling and made it comprehensible for just about anyone. 

Spending weeks on her submission, and using a computer that she described in an interview as “held together by binder clips and half the keyboard doesn’t work,” Maryam was completely unaware of the fact that she won until a socially distant reveal at her school. The first ever Canadian student to win the international prize, Maryam was awarded with a scholarship valued at $250,000 USD to fund her education, $100,000 USD to fund her high school’s new science lab, and $50,000 USD for her science teacher.