President Obama Hosts First White House Science Fair

By Tawanda W. Johnson

Obama at Science Fair
Photo Courtesy of White House Photographer Pete Souza via

President Obama examines the SMART Wheel, an invention to combat texting while driving.

President Obama recently honored some of the nation’s brightest students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and breakthrough basic research during the first White House Science Fair. The students – winners of a variety of national STEM and research competitions – represent “the promise of America,” said Obama during a reception held in the East Room of the White House.

“You all are incredibly bright young men and women,” he told the honorees. Likening them to early scientific pioneers, including Einstein and Tesla, Obama described the students as “bold men and women who took chances…who believe all things are possible.”

The STEM and research competition winners included students who developed a solar-powered car; light therapy to activate a drug to kill cancer cells; a water purifier to bring clean water to remote areas; and a SMART wheel device to combat the problem of texting while driving.

Obama said if athletes are brought to the White House to celebrate their victories, then students who win science competitions ought to be recognized as well.

“Nobody pours Gatorade on your head if you win a science competition,” he jokingly told the crowd. But, he added, the nation should recognize outstanding math and science students because their work will help keep the U.S. globally competitive.

The president said he was not satisfied with international rankings that place the U.S. 21st in science and 25th in math throughout the world.

“It is unacceptable,” he said. “America doesn’t play for second.”

APS has been working closely with its partner societies via the American Institute of Physics and Congress to address STEM education issues in the United States. Both the House and Senate versions of the America COMPETES reauthorization bill includes a provision to form a STEM education coordination committee under the Office of Science & Technology Policy to better organize the federal government’s efforts across all science-related agencies.

The crowd who attended the White House event included various dignitaries and well-known science TV personalities, including Bill Nye, “the science guy.”

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