ABC News' Neal Karlinsky and Wendy Brundige report: President Obama came to a massive, cutting edge Intel chip making plant in Hillsboro, Oregon Friday to learn how to make American kids more competitive in math and science.
“One of my staff said it’s like magic”—the President said to laughs after describing the high tech wizardry he’d just seen inside. “I have to say for all the gadgets you’ve got here what’s actually most impressive is the students– the science projects that I got a chance to see.”
The President met with a group of students from Intel’s “STEM” program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) which aims to better prepare people to compete for high-tech jobs. The group of three high school aged boys and six seventh grade girls showed the President a demonstration involving Fusion and a LEGO robot they designed.
“It gave me a chance to nod my head and pretend I understand what they’re talking about,” the President joked. “In my state of the union address I said it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl that needs to be celebrated but the winners of science fairs. They make me optimistic about America’s future.”
Inside the plant’s manufacturing facility, the President was given a “window tour” of the high tech chip making process by Intel CEO Paul Otellini. It’s called a “window tour” because the facility is in a “clean room”—which is why the President was observing through windows. He could be heard saying “that was wonderful, that was neat” during the tour in which he was shown one of Intel’s newest chips—a tiny wafer thin bit of a silicone capable of holding nearly a billion microscopic transistors. It’s exactly the sort of chip that runs many of today’s cutting edge computers—a business the President stressed must not be given away to China.
“If we want to make sure Intel doesn’t have to look overseas for skilled workers then we have to invest,” the President told a group of about 350 Intel employees and local dignitaries. “We have to out build, out innovate and out hustle the rest of the world.”
The trip is part of the President’s efforts to focus education more directly on math and science to compete in a hi tech global marketplace. He pointed out that over the next ten years nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree—a significant shift.
“And yet today as many of a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school,” he said. “We can’t win the future if we lose the race to educate our children.”
The President also talked about the need to revitalize the nation’s community colleges and he praised companies like Intel for their work in helping children develop with science programs that encourage them from a very early age.
At the event, Intel’s CEO announced plans to hire four thousand US employees this year as well as plans for a new five billion dollar factory in Arizona.
- Neal Karlinsky and Wendy Brundige