U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith took the stage at the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony Tuesday night, where she highlighted the importance of encouraging kids’ interest in the sciences.
“I have high hopes for all of our children around the world — that we will help them come into the greatness that it is to feel what science and math and engineering really are, when … you get to have that amazing moment when you figure something out,” she said.
The annual gala honored the work of 14 inventors who were added this year to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which is based at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Northern Virginia headquarters.
Communications staff for the patent office told FedScoop that Smith’s appearance at the event, held in the courtyard between the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, shows the White House’s strong support of the agency.
The gala was part of a three-day celebration of the award winners, which wrapped up Wednesday with a panel at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Awardees included Nobel Prize winner Shuji Nakamura, who invented the blue light-emitting diode, which allowed researchers to produce energy-saving white LED light; Jaap Haartsen, who invented Bluetooth wireless technology; and George Alcorn, who invented the imaging X-ray spectrometer, which is used in space research.
During her brief address at the start of the program, Smith said she had several connections to the event: She attended school with patent office Director Michelle Lee and had encountered two of the honorees — Paul MacCready, known as a “the father of human-powered flight,” and Stanford Ovshinsky, inventor of the nickel-metal hydride battery — while she competed in a solar car race across Australia as a student.
“It’s through these amazing inventors and the inspiration that they give us that we can see ourselves and the great possibilities,” Smith said.
Smith, a former Google exec and the first woman to serve as U.S. CTO, has been outspoken about the importance of encouraging children — particularly girls — to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, careers.
She told event attendees that, earlier this year, President Barack Obama met with a group of kindergarten and first-grade girls who had competed in Lego’s FIRST robotics competition. When Obama asked how the kids came up with their idea, one girl said, “We had a brainstorming session … Have you ever had a brainstorm session yourself?”
“It’s wonderful,” Smith said. “Teaching those habits is really important.”