At the second annual White House Science Fair today, the White House announced a handful of federal initiatives to improve education in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math. The announcement was somewhat upstaged by the sight of President Barack Obama helping to fire an Extreme Marshmallow Cannon.
According to a presidential advisory council report released Tuesday, fewer than 40 percent of American students who major in math and science in college ultimately earn a degree in those subjects, the New York Times reported. To help educate the one million additional graduates the White House estimates will be needed to fill jobs requiring math and science skills in the next decade, the White House said Obama would be asking for $80 million for STEM teacher training in his annual federal budget request next week, according to the Times.
The White House also announced that the National Science Foundation would provide $100 million to improve instruction in undergraduate science programs, including at community colleges and institutions with large numbers of minority students, the Times reported.
Before speaking to the science fair attendees, Obama checked out the presentations of the students who’d been invited to display their projects in the Grand Foyer and State, Red and Blue rooms after winning other science or technology competitions, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
“As I was walking around the science fair, I was thinking back to when I was your age, and basically, you guys put me to shame,” the president admitted in his remarks later, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Among the projects on show, according to the Christian Science Monitor: dissolvable sugar packets designed to reduce waste – “Tell me when I can buy stock,” Obama quipped to 16-year-old inventor Hayley Hoverter – and a sanitizing lunchbox invented by 6th graders that features a UV light that switches on to kill germs when the box is closed.
And there was one invention Obama couldn’t resist trying out: 14-year-old Joey Hudy’s Extreme Marshmallow Cannon, which the two used to fire a marshmallow across the State Dining Room, the Wall Street Journal reported.