Teen from Wildfire-Hit Town Wins $250k Scholarship for Awesome Explanation of Quantum Tunneling

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A Canadian teenager just took first place in a global science competition for her brilliant explanation of quantum tunneling.

Maryam Tsegaye lives in Fort McMurray—a city that hit headlines for devastating reasons in 2016, when 88,000 people were forced from their homes due to wildfire.

Now, thanks to her ability to explain tricky quantum physics theory with ease, this 17-year-old has taken top prize at the sixth annual international Breakthrough Junior Challenge.

The challenge is a science video competition where young people showcase their knowledge of scientific principles in various fields.

In a three-minute explainer, Maryam likened the behavior of electrons to how her brother cheats while playing games online:

“So I was watching my brother play this video game and he used a cheat code that let his character do a walk-through-walls hack,” she says in the video. “He pushed himself against a barrier in the game, hit some buttons and boom, his character appeared on the other side,” she says in her video.

“Imagine if you could walk through walls in real life—and it turns out you can, at a quantum level.”

Alberta politician Rachel Notley spoke for many when she tweeted her congratulations to the teen.

Maryam placed first out of more than 5,600 other applicants from 124 countries.

She won a $250,000 Post-secondary scholarship, a $50,000 prize for her science teacher, and a $100,000 science lab for her school.