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The Junior Academy

The 2024 Junior Academy Application is now open! Submit your application here.

Program Overview

“The journey of meeting friends and collaborating as a team to solve challenges is the best part of the Junior Academy.”

The Junior Academy is a project-based learning program where students form international teams and work with STEM experts through an online community platform. Students participate in innovation challenges where they collaborate under the guidance of STEM mentors to design solutions to real-world problems. Students and mentors can participate from anywhere in the world.

Challenges are sponsored by industry-leading companies and are preceded by a kick-off week, 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 self-select into teams and gain access to STEM experts, who serve as mentors, guiding teams throughout the challenge process. Additional STEM professionals serve as judges who score each solution and choose a winning team.  

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 The platform is accessible to all, providing students with the support they need to pursue their science curiosity. Community leaders are charged with making sure all students receive the individualized support they need to access our platform.  


Innovators Like You Around the World

Check out the map below to see where our Junior Academy members are located!


The Benefits of the Junior Academy



The Challenge Process

The Challenge Process

Challenges take place twice a year, in September and in January. Challenges are preceded by a Kick-Off week, which provides preparation for the challenges and allows team members to build 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 are featured at the Virtual Student Symposium!

For Students
“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.”

Student Eligibility Requirements

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 through 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. Applications must be submitted in English and parental or guardian consent forms must be signed.
  • Time Commitment: Three to four hours each week during challenge periods.
  • Cost: None. The Junior Academy is completely free for participating students.

The Junior Academy is currently underway for 2024. Our application cycle for students interested in joining next year will open in mid-November 2024. Students will be notified by end of January 2025.

Please Note: Students who are already part of the Junior Academy on Launchpad do NOT need to apply again in order to participate the following year.

Selection Process

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.


Admission decisions are sent out by the end of January — be on the lookout for an email invitation to you to join Launchpad from “SM Apply;” this email will contain further instructions about the Onboarding process.

For Mentors
“Working with students…was a win-win. We motivated each other as we were in this to make a difference. My team’s brilliance and relentless work ethic have produced something that I truly think is going to change the world. That’s awesome and inspiring.”

STEM experts and professionals who are STEM enthusiasts can engage with the Junior Academy community by serving as Mentors. Mentors work with student teams on virtual Innovation Challenges by encouraging and supporting 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 about their solution.

Innovation Challenges are offered twice during the program year. Fall Challenges take place from mid-September to mid-November. Spring Challenges take place from mid-February to mid-April. Mentors may choose to participate in the Fall, the Spring, or both.

Mentors can choose to engage in two ways: 1) As a Dedicated Mentor to one or more teams, guiding them through the process and providing in-depth feedback. 2) As a Floating Mentor to support all challenge participants by answering questions and providing expert feedback upon request.

Mentor Eligibility

Qualified mentors for the Junior Academy are:

  • Undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs 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)

Mentor Time Commitment

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.

Mentor Application Process and Program Participation

  1. Mentor 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.
  2. We will complete background checks on all mentors.
  3. Mentors are expected to complete program training and orientation.
Our Sponsors
The Junior Academy 2.0

The Junior Academy 2.0: The Incubator Project  

After completing an Innovation Challenge, some students — either individually or as a team — would like to take their project the next level. The Academy is committed to supporting our students as they continue to pursue the development of their ideas past the initial Innovation Challenge phase. To this end, we are launching additional coursework and mentorship opportunities so that students can commercialize their idea, give public policy testimony, and more. We welcome the opportunity to talk with external partners to support the growth of the Junior Academy Incubator Project.