Kids today have so many more opportunities than I did in school. I never got to bring my science fair projects down to DC to present to the president. Then again, my projects were pretty terrible: one involved slamming Lego boxes together in the tub to mimic plate tectonics and tsunamis, and the other involved feeding colored water to mice and trying to make sure they didn’t kill each other at the fair. Nevertheless, some pretty awesome projects made their way to the White House this week as part of President Obama’s push for youth interest in STEM.
About 30 teams from around the country were invited to the White House Monday to present their projects. Some of the projects included a 3D-printed prosthetic arm that, at $250, would cost about .3% of a standard issue prosthetic, a water filtration system powered by a bicycle, and a system of football pads that contains temperature sensors to help prevent overheating on the field. Not bad, especially considering the masterminds behind that last one are still in elementary school.
A White House press release explained that the fair was a “key commitment” to Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign. “If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House,” he said. “Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.”
Future additions to the campaign include working with education and technology companies to support mentorship of young people. Like the IC2020 initiative, US2020 seeks to have 20% of participating STEM companies donating 20 hours of mentor work a year by 2020. Time Warner Cable is working with New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz to use the Connect a Million Minds program to get kids interested in STEM through the subjects’ roles in sports. Finally, the 100Kin10 coalition is looking to produce 100,000 STEM teachers in the next 10 years.
The future of STEM is looking bright, and I’m wicked excited for it. Now, what I want to know is how that kid got his hands onto a 3D printer.