President Barack Obama has announced nearly a quarter-billion dollars in new pledges to support the study of science, technology, engineering and math, a group of fields jointly called STEM. At the White House Science Fair Monday, the president stressed the importance of private sector efforts to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue science studies.
President Obama viewed exhibits that sprawled through several rooms, and he stopped to discuss projects with the students. A group of Girl Scouts showed him a prototype of a battery-run page turner to help paralyzed people or those suffering from arthritis.
A high school student from New Mexico showed the president how algae can be used to produce a sustainable energy infrastructure at low cost.
"I utilized a chemical reaction and sort of created a reaction so as to demonstrate a net energy gain, and I do that by eliminating the most energy-expensive step of the process," said the student.
President Obama told the audience afterwards that the young inventors have something to teach us all.
"These young scientists and engineers teach us something beyond specific topics that they are exploring. They teach us how to question assumptions, to wonder why something is the way it is and how we can make it better, 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," said Obama.
More than 100 students from 30 states, representing more than 40 science competitions and organizations, participated in this year's fair. President Obama encouraged them to continue inventing and innovating. But he said the United States must encourage more young people to engage in scientific innovation.
"So, five years ago we launched a campaign called 'Educate to Innovate,' to help more of our students explore science, technology, engineering and math. Today, I'm pleased to announce $240 million in new contributions from businesses, from schools, from foundations across the country to help kids learn in these STEM fields," said Obama.
President Obama said no young person should miss out on the opportunity to excel in science because of a lack of funds. He said with the new pledges, universities and corporations have committed up to $1 billion to help expand high-quality science and technology education in the country.