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White House honors student achievement in STEM education

By Jenna Zwang, Assistant Editor
October 19th, 2010

President Barack Obama grabs the steering wheel as Tristan Evarts, of Londonderry, N.H., explains how their invention can detect distracted driving as he tours science projects on display in the State Dining Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy.)

President Barack Obama grabs the steering wheel as Tristan Evarts, of Londonderry, N.H., explains how their invention can detect distracted driving. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama announced several new initiatives geared toward improving U.S. competitiveness in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education during the first White House Science Fair on Oct. 19, including new funding commitments and public service campaigns.

The private sector has committed $700 million to help improve the nation’s STEM education, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a public-private partnership to inspire young people to pursue STEM-related fields.

More than 100 top executives from the nation’s leading corporations recently launched a campaign called “Change the Equation,” designed to improve America’s math and science rankings.

“It’s unacceptable to me, and I know it’s unacceptable to you, for us to be ranked on average as 21st [in science] or 25th [in math]—not with so much at stake,” Obama said. “Now obviously the young people who are here all boosted our averages considerably.”

Those young people, being honored for their student achievement in the STEM disciplines, presented astoundingly impressive projects, from a sophomore girl who developed a new technique for battling cancer with light activation to a high school team from Tennessee that developed a self-contained water purification system.

“Now if that doesn’t inspire you, if that doesn’t make you feel good about America and the possibilities of our young people when they apply themselves to science and math, I don’t know what will,” Obama said.

Obama also discussed the Race to the Top initiative, which encourages states to compete to produce the most innovative STEM education programs designed to raise student achievement.

“There are tens of millions of talented young people out there who haven’t been similarly inspired, and we’ve got to figure out how we make sure that everybody who’s got that same talent and inclination, how do we give them the tools that they need so that they can succeed, so that they’re entering international science competitions, so that they’re up to snuff when it comes to math,” Obama said.

Obama said he held the science fair to bring attention to the best of the student innovators.

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