On April 13, President Obama hosted the sixth and final White House Science Fair of his Administration and celebrate the student competitors and winners from a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions. The event was the largest White House Science Fair to date, with more than 130 students from more than 30 states, as well as student alumni from each of the prior five White House Science Fairs.
Highlighting the powerful stories of ingenuity, social activism, teamwork, and civic engagement evident in the projects, President Obama called on this generation of students—those in elementary, middle, and high schools today—to actively participate in solving the toughest challenges facing our world, from combating climate change to setting foot on Mars.
President Obama established the tradition of the White House Science Fair at the start of his Administration to personally celebrate our Nation’s top young scientists and innovators. The President created the Science Fair with a simple credo: “If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. 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.”
The President also highlighted the growing community of education, business, and nonprofit leaders who have responded to his State of the Union call to give every child the opportunity to learn computer science (CS), as well as his overall “Educate to Innovate” campaign to ensure all students have the tools to be innovators and problem-solvers. New programs announced included:
- New Department of Education guidance to states, school districts, and other education organizations on the many ways they can use existing Federal funds to advance Pre-K–12 STEM and CS learning.
- A $200 million investment by Oracle to support CS education for an additional 125,000 students in the United States.
- More than 500 K-12 schools committing to expand access to CS, with support from Code.org.
- Commitments to expand STEM learning for more of our youngest learners, from family engagement to innovative use of media.
- A new online matching platform, supported by US2020, to help more STEM professionals who want to volunteer and mentor.
The STEM announcements also marked progress on the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and the efforts of the Council on Women and Girls to build ladders of opportunity for all young people, including populations underrepresented in STEM; incorporate STEM into the Administration’s push to expand high-quality early-childhood education; and advance the Climate Education and Literacy Initiativeto help connect all American students and citizens with the best-available, science-based information about climate change. Full details on all of today’s announcements can be found here.
The White House Science Fair is part of a week of Administration activities celebrating science and technology, featuring the President’s participation as a guest presenter throughout this week on the Science Channel’s nightly science news segment. In addition, the White House Science Fair will be immediately followed by the USA Science & Engineering Festival, the nation’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, with more than 350,000 students and adults expected to engage in more than 3,000 hands-on activities over 3 days. More than 70 Federal agencies will participate in the Festival.
A Generational Call to Action
Students today have the potential to be one of America’s greatest generations. Though each generation of Americans brings with them new ideas and energy, today, because of unprecedented access to cutting-edge physical and digital tools, online and in-person communities, and information about the grand challenges we face, American students are even better equipped to harness their passions towards developing solutions that confront our toughest challenges.
They can be the Mars generation, the explorers who first step foot on another planet. Their skills, perseverance, and collaboration can help seed new technologies and solutions to tackle the climate crisis. They can collaborate to harness rapid advances in information technology and nanotechnology to understand the human brain, forge new solutions to cancer, and embrace the American spirit of discovery, invention, and entrepreneurship.
As the President highlighted in this year’s State of the Union Address, everyone in the United States can harness technology to help solve our toughest challenges. The 2016 White House Science Fair shines a spotlight on the contributions that the Nation’s students are making now, and the potential they have to help make our country and our world a better place.
The more than 130 students at the 2016 White House Science Fair represented more than 40 different STEM competitions and organizations. Forty student teams had the opportunity to exhibit their projects at the White House, and the President personally viewed some of these projects. Additional information on the projects, students, and competitions being recognized at the Fair can be found here.
A Sustained Record of Accomplishment
This White House Science Fair is only the most recent example of President Obama’s sustained and historic focus on giving every child the opportunity to excel at STEM education. In the past 7 years:
- The Administration has secured more than $1 billion in private investment for improving STEM education as part of the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign.
- Our Nation is more than halfway towards achieving the goal the President set in 2011 of preparing 100,000 new math and science teachers by 2021.
- Compared to when President Obama took office, 25,000 more engineers are graduating each year from American universities.
- STEM education has been incorporated into the priorities of the Department of Education (ED)—as illustrated by the Administration’s signature Race to the Topcompetition—and into the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act that the President signed last year.
- This White House has announced more than 350 commitments from college and university leadership and others to provide pathways for students underrepresented in STEM to attain degrees.
- President Obama has started traditions such as the White House Science Fair to honor young people using STEM to improve their communities and the world.
And in his final budget announced in February, the President seeks to sustain this impressive track record with an investment of $3 billion for STEM-education programs, as well as a historic $4 billion proposal in support of CS education for all students. (The Republican-controlled Congress has refused to consider the President’s budget and has yet to pass its own.)
New Steps Being Announced by the Administration
Federal agencies are announcing new steps to empower local communities with the tools, people, and support they need to expand their STEM efforts. These include:
- Federal guidance on advancing STEM education. Today, the Department of Education (ED) Office of STEM is releasing a Dear Colleague Letter providing guidance for states, school districts, and other education organizations on how they can use Federal funds to support innovative STEM-education strategies and ensure equitable STEM-education opportunities and outcomes for all students in the 2016-17 school year. In particular, this guidance outlines how Federal money can be used to support high-quality, hands-on active STEM learning.
- The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), along with the STEM Funders Network and the Afterschool Alliance, are collaborating to support vibrant STEM ecosystems in as many as 14 communities, where local schools, out-of-school programs, business, higher education, museums and local institutions will work together to expand STEM learning opportunities for local students. To support the effort, CNCS will place up to 28 AmeriCorps VISTA members, who will be full-time staff on the ground. In addition, CNCS is expanding STEM AmeriCorps VISTA through a new partnership with theNew York Academy of Sciences that will place more than 10 AmeriCorps VISTA members over the next 2 years in afterschool STEM-mentoring programs, which will serve students who reside in 60 of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City, NY, and Newark, NJ.
- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in collaboration with theYMCA of the USA, will help 10 new host cities around the country expand Thingamajig, a program developed by the YMCA of Metropolitan DC. These cities will create programs, seminars, and tools that assist students in connecting STEM education with real-world problem solving skills. This partnership builds on the last 2 years of expansion across YMCA of the USA, which reaches over 100,000 youth—with a focus on low-income and underrepresented youth—in 48 states and Washington, D.C. Additionally, this year, USPTO will expand its collaboration with the JAMTECH program to more sites across the country. JAMTECH is a hands-on educational experience that gives students with little or no exposure to computer programming the opportunity to build and program their own video games over the course of a day—teaching the principles of game design, coding, and programming in a way that allows students to expand their competencies in areas such as math, physics, analysis, logic, and strategy.
- Over 200 Federally supported citizen-science projects for students and adults are now accessible from a single place—CitizenScience.gov. The General Services Administration (GSA) is collaborating with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS), a Trust Instrumentality of the U.S. Government, to launch CitizenScience.gov, a new central hub for citizen science and crowdsourcing initiatives in the public sector. CitizenScience.gov will provide information, resources, and tools for government personnel, students, and adults who are actively engaged in or looking to participate in citizen science and crowdsourcing projects. The development of this catalogue follows the September 2015 memorandum to Federal departments and agencies issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
- ED, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Too Small to Fail (TSTF) are releasing a series of tip sheets entitled “Let’s Talk, Read and Sing about STEM!” These tip sheets provide concrete resources and recommendations for families, caregivers, and educators of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers on easy ways to incorporate STEM concepts and vocabulary into everyday routines, and suggestions for activities to engage young children in STEM learning. These new resources build on an existing suite of materials co-created by ED, HHS, and TSTF focused on early brain and language development.
- The National Science Foundation (NSF) will celebrate a Day of Active Learning. A robust foundation of evidence shows that while active engagement enhances learning for students of all demographics, it has an especially beneficial effect on women and underrepresented students, likely due to a greater sense of belonging that can be achieved in active classrooms. Today, NSF is announcing that it will hold an Active Learning Day later this year, with the goal of empowering and encouraging educators nationwide to use active learning in their classrooms.
Private-Sector Commitments in Response to the President’s Call to Action
More than 100 different organizations announced new commitments, showcasing the strong response to the President’s State of the Union call to give every child the opportunity to learn CS, as well as his overall “Educate to Innovate” campaign to ensure all students have the tools to be innovators and problem-solvers. These announcements included:
- New partnerships to train teachers and help more than 500 K-12 schools expand access to CS. Code.org has established partnerships with seven local organizations to deliver professional-learning programs aimed at preparing up to 550 new high-school and middle-school CS teachers over the next 2 years. In addition, Code.org will help support more than 500 K-12 schools expand their CS offerings. This includes:
o Nine school districts surrounding Chicago have grouped together to begin offering AP CS Principles in 21 high schools.
o Dallas Independent School District will be offering beginning CS courses districtwide for the first time in the majority of their high schools and all of their middle schools in the 2016-17 school year.
o Georgia’s Department of Education and Governor’s Office of Student Achievement committed to expand AP CS Principles to 60 high schools and integrate CS into preexisting courses at 60 middle schools across the state.
o Mississippi’s Department of Education will host 6 summer workshops this year to prepare approximately 170 new CS teachers in grades K-5.
o Northeast Florida School Districts, representing Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties, have combined efforts to spread opportunities for CS instruction to over 200,000 students served collectively by their 330 schools.
o In Washington State, Educational Service Districts 123, 171, and 112 (serving 82 school districts) have partnered with Code.org to bring CS professional-learning opportunities for elementary- and middle-school teachers as well as for middle-and high-school counselors and administrators.
- A $200 million investment from Oracle over the next 18 months in direct and in-kind funds to support CS education in the United States. The investment will allow an additional 125,000 K-12 students to learn CS through the free Oracle Academy program. Oracle is also expanding access to emerging CS fields for interested teachers and students, through opportunities such as their free Big Data Science Boot Camps. To complement its direct CS offerings, Oracle will invest more than $3 million in nonprofit organizations focused on inspiring young girls and engaging other underrepresented students in pursuing STEM and CS degrees.
- A new online matching platform, created by US2020, to connect more STEM professionals to volunteer opportunities, setting an initial goal to serve 20,000 students this year. The new platform will enable any nonprofit organization or classroom teacher to connect easily with a STEM professional. In 2016, US2020 will use the platform as a central hub to engage more than 1,000 corporations and civic organizations and serve more than 20,000 students with a focus on girls, traditionally underrepresented minority students, and children from low-income families.
- Commitments to expand STEM learning for young learners nationwide. In response to the Administration’s broader push to expand early-childhood education, private-sector organizations are stepping up and making new commitments to build statewide early STEM programs, equip every Head Start center across the country with STEM tools, and engage families with new media and cultural options. A full list of new commitments will be released as a part of a White House event on early learning and STEM later this month. These include:
o 100Kin10 is awarding $1.7 million to partners in New York State and has leveraged additional support from Motorola Solutions to develop ways to increase the reach and quality of engineering and CS teaching in Pre-K–12 schools.
o Common Sense Education will produce a set of early STEM-education resources and tools, covering themes like Coding for Early Readers. These resources have the potential to reach more than 300,000 teachers in 100,000 schools, and 65 million households across the country.
o The Heising-Simons Foundation will partner with The Fred Rogers Company to support the production of 25 episodes of “Odd Squad,” a math-focused television show airing on PBS Kids, create games and an app, and hold free week-long summer math camps in 14 U.S. cities serving more than 400 children.
o The Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN) will donate 10,000 STEM-focused Spanish/English Family Kits to informal learning settings (libraries and museums), community-based organizations, and national organizations—including home visitation programs—that serve low-income families in order to help expand young children’s access to STEM at home.
o Learning Point Alaska, Inc. is partnering with multiple Alaska Native organizations to deliver informal, technology-based STEM programming to elementary-school students and build capacity for local teachers in Native Villages throughout Alaska.
o The Museum of Science, Boston is launching a 3-year initiative to create a research-based Pre-K-Kindergarten engineering curriculum, which will build on the museum’s Engineering is Elementary curriculum, for schools to use to teach children ages 3-5.
o The National Head Start Association and Lakeshore Learning will set a goal to reach the one million children who are enrolled in Head Start programs with their “Recycle Your Way to STEAM” program.
o Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street, will develop “Make Believe with Math,” a research-based Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for educators, which, along with other training resources, will be made freely available online.
Full details on all of the new programs and initiatives can be found here.