Today, the halls of the White House were packed with science projects — robots, 3D-printed objects, computer programs, apps, and extraordinary scientific discoveries — all built, invented, designed, and brought to fruition by students.
At the 5th annual White House Science Fair, President Obama welcomed more than 100 students from more than 30 states for a celebration and showcase of their truly remarkable achievmenets in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
As part of the Science Fair, approximately 35 student teams exhibited innovative projects — including discoveries and insights in key areas such as disease diagnostics, clean energy, and information security — as well as inventions ranging from the “why didn’t I think of that?” (automatic page-turner for people with arthritis) to the “who’d have ever thought that possible?” (a hiccup-curing lollipop!).
The President personally viewed some of these projects, marveling at the incredible ingenuity on display from student innovators across the country including some as young as six years old.
In remarks to an audience of science-fair participants, mentors, educators, and leaders in government, philanthropy, and the private sector, President Obama praised these extroadinary students:
“These young scientists and engineers teach us … how to question assumptions; to wonder why something is the way it is, and how we can make it better," the President said. "And they remind us that there’s always something more to learn, and to try, and to discover, and to imagine — and that it’s never too early, or too late to create or discover something new."
President Obama went on to describe how science shapes our world-view:
"That’s why we love science. It’s more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world, and to share this accumulated knowledge. It’s a mindset that says we that can use reason and logic and honest inquiry to reach new conclusions and solve big problems.”
President Obama also announced a number of ambitious steps to continue to inspire young people like those at the Science Fair and ensure they are connected to the tools, resources, training, and mentors they need to achieve their STEM goals. Here are just some of the announcements the President made today:
- A $150-million philanthropic effort to empower a diverse cadre of promising early-career scientists to stay on track to become scientific leaders of tomorrow
- The $90-million Let Everyone Dream campaign to expand STEM opportunities to under-represented youth
- A $25-million Department of Education competition to create science- and literacy-themed media that inspires students to explore
- 120 universities and colleges committing to train 20,000 engineers to tackle the “Grand Challenges” of the 21st century
- A coaltion of CEOs called Change the Equation committing to expand effective STEM programs to an additional 1.5 million students this year
All told, the steps launched today bring the Administration’s grand total up to $1 billion in commitments and in-kind support to advance the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, which aims to inspire more girls and boys to excel in STEM subjects.
To highlight the theme of this year’s science fair — Diversity and Inclusion in STEM — Administration leaders hosted two roundtable discussions in which students shared stories about opportunities and challenges they face in STEM studies.
In the morning, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarret, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Associate Director for Science Jo Handelsman, and OSTP Principal Assistant Director for Energy and Environment Tammy Dickinson met with all-star female students participating in this year’s White House Science Fair. There was a lively discussion of the changing image of women in STEM and the need for even more extraordinary female role models to step up and tell their STEM stories.
In the afternoon, Vice President Biden joined a group of students, teachers, and STEM advocates for a discussion on the importance of providing access to STEM education to all Americans, regardless of background. The Vice President — joined by NFL player Victor Cruz and actress Cierra Ramirez — talked with the students about the tremendous opportunities that are becoming available every day because of advances in science and technology. He closed reminding participants never to lose faith in their own abilities to shape the future.
It was a whirlwind day for science and engineering at the White House! Geeks descended upon 1600 Pennsylvania — filling rooms and halls from the State Dining room to the East Garden — and showcasing more discoveries, inventions, and bright ideas than ever before.
We can’t wait to keep track of where these incredible young innovators go next!
Becky Fried is Deputy Assistant Director for Strategic Communications at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.