More than 100 students from 30 states got a chance to show off their innovative science projects Tuesday at the fourth annual White House Science Fair.
President Barack Obama walked through exhibits stationed throughout the White House before delivering remarks focusing on getting more young women involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
While chatting with participant Elana Simon, whose studies focused on finding a cure for a rare form of cancer she had as a child, Obama said that Simon’s abilities to overcome her own condition and further research was “remarkable.”
“I was reading up on you; you’ve done great stuff,” Obama said. “I don’t know if folks are aware of this story, but this young lady is remarkable. They’re all remarkable, but I think it’s appropriate we start right here.”
Obama used the annual science fair to announce new initiatives by the Education Department to support a February 2012 effort to train and employ 100,000 new STEM teachers.
“Today I’m announcing a $35 million competition to train some of our best math and science graduates to become teachers and fill more of our classrooms with the hands-on science we see here today,” Obama said.
The competition comes as a new round of the Teacher Quality Partnership grant competition. Forty TQP grants have been awarded so far during the Obama administration.
In addition to the competition, Obama also announced efforts to expand AmeriCorps to provide STEM opportunities for low-income students starting this summer and a new mentoring effort to partner students with STEM companies and leaders.
This year’s event focused specifically on encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM fields and inspiring more to achieve those goals.
According to Obama, fewer than one in five bachelor’s degree recipients in engineering or computer science and fewer than three in 10 workers in science and engineering are women.
Those numbers need to change, Obama said.
“That means we’ve got half our team we’re not even putting on the field,” Obama said. “We’ve got to change those numbers. These are the fields of the future. This is where the good jobs are going to be, and I want America to be a home for these jobs.”