By Jane Morse
Even as President Obama welcomed a crowd of more than 100 students with their science exhibits to the White House February 7, he made it clear he wants to see a whole lot more.
At the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions around the country, Obama announced a private-public commitment totaling more than $100 million to prepare 100,000 STEM teachers in the next decade. He also called for 1 million more students to graduate in the next 10 years with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.
To meet that goal, the president announced his new $80 million budget request, which would support education programs allowing students to simultaneously earn both a STEM degree and a teaching certificate.
Obama also announced a new $22 million investment from the philanthropic and private sectors to support the administration’s efforts. More than 115 organizations, led by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Opportunity Equation, have come together to form a coalition called “100Kin10.” 100Kin10 strives to bring together federal agencies, states, museums, corporations, universities, school districts and nonprofit organizations, as well as individuals, to pool their resources and apply them creatively to address the nation’s shortage of STEM teachers.
“When students excel in math and science, they help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future,” Obama said. “That’s why I’m proud to celebrate outstanding students at the White House Science Fair, and to announce new steps my administration and its partners are taking to help more young people succeed in these critical subjects.”
The president hosted the first White House Science Fair in 2010 as part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign, designed to inspire boys and girls to excel in math and science. He has also worked to foster enthusiasm for math and science by personally meeting science fair student participants during his travels across the country and discussing their inventions with them.
To more deeply involve young people, the White House opened its fair this year “virtually” to American students everywhere, inviting them to discuss their favorite science fair project via the Internet with Tom Kalil of the White House Office of Science and Technology and Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society, who hosted a television program and other initiatives to make science entertaining and accessible to the general public. The “virtual” participants were invited to share pictures of their projects on Twitter with the hashtag #WHScienceFair or through a form on WhiteHouse.gov. Some of the projects submitted this way will be on display on the White House website.
“This is fun,” Obama said to the White House Science Fair participants in remarks delivered after viewing their displays. “It’s not every day you have robots running all over your house …. I also shot a marshmallow through an air gun, which was very exciting.”