Announcing our 2016 Talent Search winners in the US and Canada

2016-10-28 21:19:29 GMT

At Khan Academy, our mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Our mission is ambitious, and we can’t do it alone. We need great explainers to create instructional videos, practice exercises, and reference articles to contribute to our growing library of content.

That’s why we ran the Khan Academy Talent Search again in the US and Canada this June - to find great video creators and amplify their voices. (We’ve also got a talent search in India! Click here for information.) We asked this year’s contestants to focus on a range of subjects from biology and psychology to geography and statistics. We received 1,300 video applications, and were blown away by the quality, passion, and ingenuity.

After reviewing all applications, we selected ten winners: one overall winner and nine finalists.

We were looking for videos that explain academic concepts with clarity and depth, are friendly and conversational, and laser-focused on helping students when they most need guidance - whether they are learning a concept for tomorrow’s test, completing their homework, or reviewing what they learned in class. These 10 videos clearly exemplify these qualities:

Scroll down to see all 10 videos. The overall winner receives a $3,000 cash prize and finalists receive $300. All winners are considered for content creation opportunities at Khan Academy.

Although our talent search is over in the US and Canada, we’re still looking for great creators to bring content to learners around the world. Check out our careers page for current job openings on our content team.  As previously mentioned, we’re running an India Talent Search to identify great video creators who can create content aligned to India’s academic standards.

Check out the 10 winning videos!


Overall winner Alison Caldwell: Doctoral student in neuroscience

Parts of the Brain

Alison’s video description: The brain is a complex organ, and even though it all kinda looks the same, it turns out that different parts of the brain do different things. In this video, we’ll go over all of the major parts of the brain, including the occipital, temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes. And we’ll even cover some of the other structures that get taken for granted. Get ready to fall in lobe!

Why we selected this video as the overall winner: ‘Parts of the brain’ covers the academic concepts deeply and rigorously, and Alison’s delivery throughout the video feels friendly and conversational while staying focused on what a student needs to know for class. You might have guessed that one of the reasons we selected this video as the overall winner is its high production values (engaging special effects, beautiful brain illustrations, etc.). While these certainly make the video enjoyable to watch, high production values aren’t a factor in our scoring. We look for videos that display exceptional clarity, approachability, and a focus on student needs - all qualities this video exemplifies.

Check out more videos by Alison.

Meet our nine Talent Search finalists!

Abraham Feinberg: College science teacher and data analyst

Nature vs. Nurture - Part 1

Abraham’s video description: Are your behaviors a fixed, inevitable result of your genes? Or are they the result of the people and objects that surround you? In this video, we’ll take a first look at the concept of Nature vs. Nurture, and we’ll try to get a beginning idea of why it’s such an important issue in many different areas of psychology (and everyday life!).

Check out more videos by Abraham.

Alexandra Evans: Policy instructor, Foreign Service Institute

Writing in the Ancient Near East

Alexandra’s video description: People have been drawing pictures for tens of thousands of years, but when did we really start to write things down? How did we develop written words from pictures? In this video, we’ll take a look at the very first writing systems, Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, and we’ll trace how pictures evolved into written words.

Check out more videos by Alexandra.

Brian Macon: Full-time faculty, full-time father and husband, part-time PhD student

Confidence Intervals and Central Limit Theorem

Brian’s video description: What is the connection between the Central Limit Theorem and Confidence Intervals? In this video we will use a computer simulation to answer that question. The simulation will help us visualize the nature of sampling distributions as we begin our conversation about using estimates to make future predictions.

Check out more videos by Brian.

Jay Lin: Medical student and educational video producer


Jay’s video description: How exactly do drugs affect the brain? This video will go over the normal chemical signaling in brain cells, and then explore the different ways drugs can change this normal signaling.

Kelly Squires: Retired middle school teacher

Plate Tectonics

Kelly’s video description: Whether we’re aware of it or not, the earth’s crust is in a constant state of motion. A whole lot of colliding, dividing and sliding of massive chunks of lithosphere called plates, is happening very slowly but surely, right this very second. The reason for this remarkable movement is plate tectonics. In this video, we’ll explore the cause of plate tectonics, the major plates found throughout the earth and the various landforms such as mountain ridges, valleys, volcanoes and faults that result from the plates’ movement.

Robert Lochel: High school math teacher

Chi-Squared Goodness of Fit Tests

Robert’s video description: Are hospital births equally distributed through the week, or are some days more likely? A chi-squared goodness-of-fit hypothesis test is used to compare the variability present in the data to what could reasonable occur by chance alone, and the big ideas behind these categorical tests are explained.

Check out more videos by Robert.

Finalist: Ron Maxwell: Middle school science teacher

Moon phases explained- middle school level

Ron’s video description: A simple talk to help you learn the phases of the moon and the way the moon phases happen…

Check out more videos by Ron.

Finalist: Sonal Nalkur: Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at Emory University

Gender, Norms, and Occupations

Sonal’s video description: Why do some occupations seem to have a higher proportion of men or women? And does a person’s gender always have implications in the workplace? Many sociologists are curious to understand the reasons why the labor market looks the way it does. We also want to understand the specifics about why some people might be excluded or treated differently in the workforce. In this video, you’ll be introduced to some of the concepts that allow sociologists to ask bigger questions about how gender might operate in various occupations.    

Finalist: Steve Yang: Recent graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Bernoulli’s Equation Revisited

Steve’s video description: Engineering principles are often built upon concepts that you may have already learned in math and physics. In this video, we’ll see how we can adapt and expand the energy form of the Bernoulli’s Equation to the hydraulic head form to better suit the needs of engineers.

Check out more videos by Steve.