Through a unique video exploring the secrets held by strange signals from more than 13 billion years ago, a young scientist from Wagga is once again establishing himself as one of the world's brightest.
Michael Nixon has found himself on the brink of a huge prize after reaching the final round of the 2021 Breakthrough Junior Challenge for the second straight year, beating out thousands of competitors to reach the final 15.
As part of the competition, the former Kooringal High School student created a three-minute video explaining the cosmic microwave background - a collection of radiation left behind from shortly after the big bang.
If his video is chosen as the winner, Michael will be awarded a scholarship worth more than $340,000, a prize of $68,000 will be given to an inspiration teacher of his choice and Kooringal High School will receive a $205,000 science lab upgrade.
The 18-year-old reached the same stage of the competition last year but fell short of the top spot. While he's not sure if he will pull it off this time he said his video is definitely better.
"Well I can't say I'm very confident at all because there are so many other talented young people putting together fantastic videos and showing the kind of talent we have around the world," Michael said.
"But I think my video is certainly an improvement from last year and I am very happy with it."
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The competition brings together two of Michael's greatest interests - science and video - and touches on his passion for making complex ideas easy to understand.
"I think a lot of the more complex topics in science can seem so abstract and so difficult that a lot of people just don't approach them or even think about them," he said.
"A lot of the videos in the breakthrough challenge have done a really great job in breaking those down and presenting them in really creative ways - I think that's really the beauty of it."
Michael wrote, filmed and edited his video while living in Wagga before moving to the United States to begin his studies at Stanford University earlier this month.
He said life in California has been a big shift from the Riverina and he has been happy to see people back home supporting his video.
"People here think it's a joke when I say I'm from a place called Wagga Wagga," he laughed.
"And they really think I'm pulling their leg when I tell them we have Walla Walla right down the road."
The winner of the 2021 Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be announced at an award ceremony in November.
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