Global sci­ence chal­lenge taps Wood­bridge stu­dent

Dav­ina Potkidis, 17, is on the shortlist for con­test’s top prize, which in­cludes a $250,000 schol­ar­ship


When Dav­ina Potkidis first learned about the com­pli­cated world of grav­i­ta­tional waves, su­per no­vae and de­struc­tive in­ter­fer­ence, she read about it in an­other lan­guage.

The 17-year-old from Wood­bridge was tak­ing an on­line French course in her spare time in 2015. One of her as­sign­ments in­cluded read­ing an es­say about grav­i­ta­tional waves and Al­bert Ein­stein’s the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity.

“It was a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand, but I was still re­ally in­ter­ested in it,” Potkidis said.

A year later, when Potkidis dis­cov­ered the Break­through Ju­nior Chal­lenge, a schol­ar­ship com­pe­ti­tion for stu­dents around the world ask­ing them to bring to life a con­cept in sci­ence or math, she im­me­di­ately knew what to fo­cus on.

The con­test is or­ga­nized by the Break­through Prize foun­da­tion, started by Face­book cre­ator Mark Zucker­berg and oth­ers. Stu­dents were asked to cre­ate an orig­i­nal video ex­plain­ing com­plex sci­en­tific ideas in an imag­i­na­tive way.

The win­ner will re­ceive a $250,000 post-sec­ondary schol­ar­ship, plus an ad­di­tional $50,000 for the stu­dent’s sci­ence teacher and a state-of-the-art sci­ence lab, val­ued at $100,000, for the school.

In her video, Potkidis, wear­ing a black T-shirt with the word “sci­ence” across the front, deftly ex­plains what grav­i­ta­tional waves are and what hap­pens when they hit the Earth.

Us­ing an ar­ray of vi­su­als and a touch of hu­mour, she ca­su­ally ex­plains the con­cept first pre­dicted by Ein­stein.

Potkidis spent three weeks study­ing grav­i­ta­tional waves, writ­ing a script and shoot­ing and edit­ing the video, a chal­lenge given how many other ac­tiv­i­ties the teenager has on the go. She teaches pi­ano lessons to young chil­dren, plays sev­eral in­stru­ments and soc­cer, fig­ure skates with the Wood­bridge Skat­ing Club and is on her school’s stu­dent coun­cil, all while main­tain­ing a 96-per-cent average.

De­spite her im­pres­sive re­sumé, Potkidis didn’t ex­pect to be one of the stu­dents se­lected from a pool of more than 6,000 en­tries.

“I was very sur­prised,” she said. “I hon­estly didn’t think I would make it to the next round, let alone in the top 30.”

The teen hopes she’ll get the votes to win the schol­ar­ship.

The pub­lic can vote for their favourite video on­line un­til Wed­nes­day.

Potkidis plans on go­ing to univer­sity next year and study­ing bio­physics or biomed­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing. She’s con­sid­er­ing go­ing to med­i­cal school so she can be­come a ra­di­ol­o­gist or pathol­o­gist.


Dav­ina Potkidis is one of 30 semi­fi­nal­ists in a con­test that asked stu­dents to ex­plain a com­plex sci­en­tific idea.

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