A little over three weeks ago the final round of the 2020 Skolkovo Junior Challenge competition came to a close. The scores have since been tallied and the official results published. For the first time, the final round of the competition, as well as the award ceremony following it, took the form of an online hack-a-thon.

A unique format to be sure, but even more interesting was everything that happened along the way. This year, in view of the self-isolation regime, the competition’s in-person round was cancelled. But this had no effect on amazing participant experiences, or their contest results. “We were quickly able to reorganize the final round, in which students need to not only demonstrate their knowledge and skills, but also their ability to work productively in teams. The online format turned out to be a plus, as it allowed a large number of finalists to take part in the hack-a-thon, gaining practical experience solving real-world problems and, of course, showing off their abilities, sometimes in unexpected ways,” explained Skolkovo Gymnasium Director Oksana Demianenko.

Skolkovo Gymnasium Director Oksana Demianenko and Skolkovo Junior Challenge project manager Sergey Shalashny at Technopark “Skolkovo” during the live broadcast of the final round. Photo credit: Technopark “Skolkovo”.

Invited to participate in the intellectual competition were students in grades 7-10 interested in physics, mathematics, programming, design, biology, chemistry, medicine, economics and economic geography. More than 2500 students took part in the first two distance-rounds of the competition, but only 120 made it to the final stage. Finalists were divided into 30 teams, 10 each in the spheres of “Contemporary Energy”, “Biomedical Technology” and “Industrial Technology”. Of course, work in each area required students to analyze a substantial amount of information, using their IT-skills and English language knowledge to support them.

As was the case a year ago, the Association of Technological Club Participants served as co-organizers of the competition. Sponsors and partners for the 2020  Skolkovo Junior Challenge included the Skolkovo Institute of Sciences and Technology (Skoltech), Softline, Yandex, Insilico Medicine, the Center for the Development of Information Technologies “IT-Planet”, SkyEng, the publishing houses “PITER” and “CompassGuide”, Cyber, Enel, Schneider Electric, Norgau, and Coddy. The final round of the competition was broadcast with the help of Technopark “Skolkovo”.

Teams in the “Contemporary Energy” sphere were given the challenge of working out how to run a small-sized city using renewable energy technologies. The winning team, “Singularity”, was comprised of students from four different Russian cities: Andrey Gromyko (Moscow), Kirill Sintsova (Saint Petersburg), Anton Boiko (Izhevsk), Constantine Korolyeva (Odintsovo).

Finalists of the 2020 Skolkovo Junior Challenge competition. Photo credit: Skolkovo Gymnasium.

Teams in the “Biomedical Technology” sphere were tasked with working out the conditions necessary for a colonization of Mars, including providing breathable air and edible plant life, and choosing animals to take into space for experimentation. The winning team in this sphere was “Atom”, and was comprised up of students from Ulyanovsk and Moscow: Anatoly Chuvashlov (Ulyanovsk), Elizaveta Gulyanovskaya (Ulyanovsk), Yulia Novoselovo (Ulyanovsk) and Evgeny Babiy (Moscow).

Teams in the “Industrial Technology” sphere were asked to partially model the infrastructure of a business cluster connecting freight and passenger-transport companies. Tasks included designing self-driving automobiles and tabulating the project’s potential profit margins. The winning team, “Trotech” hailed entirely from the city of Troitsk: Artem Kozaka, Dmitry Gursky, Timofey Tikhonov and Yulia Goldberg. 

Artem Kozak, from the champion “Trotech” team, shared his impressions of the competition: “This was such a valuable and unforgettable experience. The level of challenge and topic choices for the competition tasks was impressive. Plus, as a lot of the literature in the second round was written in English, we had the opportunity to practice our language skills. In the final contest of the timed section we leveraged abilities some of us didn’t even know we had. Having to quickly focus in on a problem in order to solve a series of tasks under a strict time limit is not for the weak-minded! We are honored that the jury thought so highly of our work.” 

Team of finalists at the 2020 Skolkovo Junior Challenge competition. Photo credit: Skolkovo Gymnasium.

In addition to evaluating team projects and products, experts and members of the jury awarded outstanding individual contributions as well. The maximum scores in this area went to Arina Zhuk (Saint Petersburg), Bogdan Storozhenko (Moscow) and Feya Prokhorova (Aprelevka, Moscow Region).

The winning teams received valuable prizes from partner organizations sponsoring the competition, and individual winners were awarded scholarships to attend the Skolkovo Gymnasium. 

While it may be true that unpredictable circumstances did partially change the rules of the game, and although finalists were not able to take the stage at the 2020 Startup Village event this year, these changes did nothing to diminish the quality of student work or the joy of team competition.

The Skolkovo Gymnasium is already preparing for next year’s competition, so get your high-tech thinking caps ready!