THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary FACT SHEET:
April 13, 2016
At White House Science Fair, President Obama Calls on This Generation of Students to Tackle the Grand Challenges of Our Time WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama will host 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 will be 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 will call 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 will also highlight 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 problemsolvers. Today’s announcements include:
- 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. 2
- A new online matching platform, supported by US2020, to help more STEM professionals who want to volunteer and mentor.
Today’s STEM announcements also mark 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 earlychildhood education; and advance the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative to help connect all American students and citizens with the best-available, science-based information about climate change.
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 will represent more than 40 different STEM competitions and organizations. Approximately 40 student teams will have the opportunity to exhibit their projects at the White House, and the President will personally view 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 Top competition—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 sustains 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.
New Steps Being Announced by the Administration Today
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:
New Steps Being Announced by the Administration Today 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 4 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 the New 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 the YMCA 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 5 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
Today, more than 100 different organizations are announcing 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 mark progress on a number of Administration priorities.
Computer Science for All
Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has sought to improve STEM education to prepare all students to compete in the innovation economy. In his final State of the Union, President Obama pushed us to take the next step—to offer rigorous CS coursework for all students. Since the President issued his CS proposal, we have seen real progress, including:
- Four Governors have supported new K-12 CS efforts. In early March, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced her plans for Rhode Island to give CS education to all of its students. In the past month, Idaho Governor Butch 6 Otter and Utah Governor Gary Herbert have both signed bills to expand access to CS in Idaho and Utah schools, and Virginia passed legislation adding CS to its K-12 standards. In addition, Washington Governor Jay Inslee co-authored a joint bipartisan op-ed with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson in support of the goals of the Computer Science for All initiative, and launched a bipartisan Governors’ Partnership for K-12 CS Education effort at the National Governors Association meeting.
- Cities and school districts have stepped up as well. Last month, Chicago’s City Council acted to make CS a graduation requirement, starting with the highschool class of 2020. Meanwhile, individual schools, like Tech Valley High School in New York, have announced plans to make CS a required course. Riverside Unified Schools has pulled together a consortium of school districts in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, to prepare 250 new CS teachers across schools serving a population of 245,000 students. Palm Beach County Public Schools has committed to expanding K-12 CS by training up to 100 new CS teachers in the 2016-17 school year in partnership with Code.org. Alabama’s A+ College Ready has committed to expand high-school CS courses throughout the state of Alabama, to at least 35 high schools, in partnership with Code.org.
- Tech leaders have rallied in support. The #CSforAll campaign has registered more than 400 million social media impressions and inspired an outpouring of support from technology leaders including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Today, the Administration is highlighting new commitments that advance the President’s CS efforts.
- Cartoon Network is launching its first public service announcement (PSA) focused on creative coding, highlighting for kids that they can learn coding as a means to express ideas, craft stories, and create art. Cartoon Network will lend its full range of media platforms to amplify the PSA. In addition, to build momentum around its efforts to integrate coding storylines into its programming, Cartoon Network today released a first look at its coding-themed episode of The Powerpuff Girls. Cartoon Network, in collaboration with the Scratch team of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab will this summer provide free coding activities integrating characters from the show. 7
- Code.org is announcing new partnerships to train teachers and help more than 500 K-12 schools expand access to CS. Code.org has established partnerships with 7 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. Participating organizations are Rice University, Code VA, the Council of Educational Administrative and Supervisory Organizations of Maryland, Ohio STEM Learning Network, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Patricia & Phillip Frost Museum of Science, Puget Sound Educational Service District, Alameda County Office of Education, and 9 Dots Community Learning Center. In addition, Code.org will help support more than 500 K-12 schools expand their CS offerings. This includes:
- Nine school districts surrounding Chicago have grouped together to begin offering AP CS Principles in 21 high schools.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mississippi’s Department of Education will host 6 summer workshops this year to prepare approximately 170 new CS teachers in grades K-5.
- 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.
- In Washington State, Educational Service Districts 123, 171, and 112 (serving 82 school districts) have partnered with Code.org to bring CS professionallearning opportunities for elementary- and middle-school teachers as well as for middle-and high-school counselors and administrators.
My Brother’s Keeper
On February 27, 2014, President Barack Obama launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” (MBK) initiative, a call to action to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure all young people can reach their full potential. In February of this year, the Administration announced the creation of new STEM and entrepreneurship tracks within MBK—steps that build on the ongoing work of the Council on Women and Girls to ensure opportunities in STEM education throughout the workforce pipeline. Today, a first cohort of organizations are stepping up with their own independent commitments inspired by MBK that will help expand STEM opportunities, including for traditionally underrepresented minorities. These commitments include:
- The founder of BLACK GIRLS ROCK! is launching KING ME!, a new effort to empower and mentor boys of color in the STEM fields. Programming will include a science and technology summit to expose boys of color to STEM, a week-long leadership workshop, and a think tank disseminating data and research-based curricula and programs for boys of color.
- Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association and the Shell Oil Company Foundation, will help at least 10 school districts develop 5-year strategic STEM-education plans to help increase STEM diversity. The plans will incorporate the LASER model, which uses inquiry-based science to improve achievement for all students not just in science, but also math and reading.