The First Lady Making Science Cool

By Matt Loffman

May 3, 2010 2:29pm

From ABC News’ Arlette Saenz:

First Lady Michelle Obama asked the bonus point questions in the middle school championship round at the 20th annual National Science Bowl at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Obama was accompanied by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who served as the official judge for the bonus point questions of the competition. 

The middle school and high school students participating in the Jeopardy-style event answered the science questions with ease, but the First Lady admitted she struggled with some of the questions, even floundering on the pronunciation of the chemical element chlorine when she asked the first question.

"The President and I — and he is fully aware that I am here. I went over some of the questions with him. He didn’t know many of the answers, but that's okay. Neither did I," the First Lady said.

The middle school bonus point questions ranged from the meaning of H1N1 to how winter blizzards form in the Great Plains. 

“A sample of human blood is taken and the cells are separated from the fluid part of blood.  The cells are all burst open and the proteins are analyzed and identified.  What is the most common protein in the sample, and is it a globular or fibrous protein?” Mrs. Obama asked the middle school students.

Appearing in its first National Science Bowl ever, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics team from Durham, N.C., clinched the high school championship title.  The team from the Albuquerque Academy from Albuquerque, New Mex., won the middle school championship round with a bonus question asked by the First Lady about the type of logic involved in an experiment with a thousand house cats.

Following the championship rounds, the First Lady and Secretary Chu presented trophies to the winning teams and spoke about the promise of the students involved in the competition.

"We're determined to show the world and this country how cool science can really be. We want young people energized in the way that you all are, because we know that American brainpower in science and math has always driven this country’s prosperity, helping us make the discoveries and to build the industries that have transformed the way we live and work," she said.

Mrs. Obama spoke of the need to invigorate under-represented groups, such as minorities and women, in the fields of math and science. The First Lady highlighted the administration’s efforts to host the first ever White House science fair for students from across the country later this year.

"When you win the NCAA championship, the winners come to the White House.  And we think that budding inventors, scientists and mathematicians should be at the White House, too," Mrs. Obama said.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Bowl welcomes more than 20,000 students across the country to participate in regional competitions, whose winners head to Washington, D.C. to compete on the national level.  Students answer questions on a variety of science subjects, such as biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy.  In the high school division, the national championship team is awarded with a trip to study the ecosystems of Belize.

FLOTUS Fashion Watch: The First Lady looked very official as a judge, wearing a long-sleeved grey pantsuit with a colorful brooch pinned on her left lapel.

-Arlette Saenz

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