The White House has launched a campaign to improve math and science education in the United States.  President Barack Obama says the private sector is coming through with talent and money to support the cause.

A student experiment in robotics was front and center at the White House.

The metal contraption built by two teenagers caught and threw a ball.  President Obama said the demonstration was held to underscore the importance of science and math education.

"It goes beyond the facts in a biology textbook or the questions on an algebra quiz," said President Obama. "It is about the ability to understand our world, to harness and train that human capacity to solve problems and think critically - a set of skills that informs the decisions we make throughout our lives."

Earlier this year, the president challenged the private sector to join with government in a nationwide effort to boost student achievement in science and mathematics.

He said corporations, universities, non-profit organizations, and professional associations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers have embraced the call.

"The initial commitment of the private sector to this campaign is more than $260 million," said Mr. Obama. "And we only expect the campaign to grow."

The money will be used to reach children of all ages.  There will be extra resources for teachers and even a new series of television programs for preschoolers.

President Obama will be directly involved in one aspect of the campaign - a White House science fair that will showcase top student experiments from across the country.

He said these young innovators deserve the same acclaim as school sports champions.

"If you win the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] championships you come to the White House," said President Obama. "Well, if you are a young person and produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for the achievement, too."

The president called for a greater emphasis on math and science education in a speech to the National Academy of Sciences in April.  He said students from many other countries are outperforming the United States, emphasizing his goal is to put America back on top within a decade.