Video: Megan Neunan / Medill
Video: Safiya Merchant / Medill
WASHINGTON — It’s not every day that robots roam the White House.
Obama hosted the second White House Science Fair Tuesday, honoring students who have won competitions in science, technology, engineering and math – often referred to as STEM programs.
The event coincided with Obama’s announcement of key steps that his administration plans to help students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects. Many of these proposals will be spelled out in the president’s highly anticipated budget, to be announced next week.
The president issued an overriding challenge for the government as well as its private-sector partners: educating 1 million more American graduates in science, technology, engineering and math over the next 10 years.
“The budget I unveil will include programs to help prepare new math and science teachers and to meet an ambitious goal,” said Obama. “That is a goal we can achieve.”
To meet that goal, his 2013 budget will include a request for an $80 million investment through the Education Departmentto help prepare STEM teachers, as well as more than $100 million for the National Science Foundation aimed at STEM education programs.
Obama emphasized the role of the private sector in upgrading science, tech, engineering and math education. He highlighted a $22 million investment by the Carnegie Corp./ and others to help train 100,000 new science and math teachers, and also a CEO-led coalition expanding STEM programs to 130 new sites nationwide.
Companies “understand how important it is to their future,” said Obama. The private sector wants “to make sure we celebrate young scientists and inventors and engineers, not just at the White House but in every city and every town all across America.”
The president first hosted students in late 2010 a commitment made as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, an effort to inspire young men and women to excel in math and science.
Participating students had won various nationwide competitions sponsored by the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education Coalition. The advocacy group raises awareness in Congress, the executive branch and other organizations about the critical role STEM education plays in economics and technology leadership.
This year’s fair included about 100 students from more than 45 states, representing some 40 different STEM competitions.
The president viewed projects from 30 or so teams of students, ranging from rocketry to a roving Skype robot. “I’m having trouble figuring out how you got through the metal detectors!” the president quipped.
“What impresses me so much is not just how smart you are, but it’s the fact that you recognize you’ve got a responsibility to use your talents to serve something bigger than yourselves,” Obama said to the students. “It’s young people like you that make me so confident that America’s best days are still to come.”
“When you compete in something like this, you’re not just trying to win a prize today, you’re getting America in shape to win in the future.”