President Obama told student inventors today that their work was crucial to the nation's future and called for millions of dollars in new education funding to give math and science "the respect and attention they deserve.
"You're making sure America will win the race to the future," Obama said at the White House Science Fair. "As an American, I'm proud of you. As your president, I think we need to make sure your success stories are happening all across the country."
The president announced that his 2013 budget proposal, which will be released next week, will include $80 million for a new Department of Education competition to support math and science teacher preparation programs.
"The belief that we belong on the cutting edge of innovation - that's an idea as old as America itself," Obama explained. "We're a nation of tinkerers and dreamers and believers in a better tomorrow."
The president seemed to get a big kick out of the rockets, robots and energy projects on display today. "It's not every day that you have robots running all over your house. I am trying to figure out how you got through the metal detectors," the president joked.
In an impromptu moment, an almost giddy Obama tested out Joey Hudy's air cannon, which launches marshmallows up to 176 feet. "Would it hit the wall over there? Would it stick?" the president asked the 14-year old from Phoenix. "Let's try it," the president declared before warning the press to "back up."
"Secret service isn't happy about this," Obama said before launching the marshmallow across the State Dining Room.
Other projects included ecologically conscious dissolvable sugar packets, a system to detect nuclear threats and a robot designed to connect older adults with their families.
Obama explained to the students that while he "didn't build a rocket," he did help his daughter Sasha win her school's egg drop competition this year. "We practiced by dropping it from the Truman balcony," he revealed.
"Walking around the science fair, I was thinking back to when I was your age, and basically, you guys put me to shame," Obama said to laughter. "What impresses me so much is not just how smart you are, but it's the fact that you recognize you've got a responsibility to use your talents in service of something bigger than yourselves."
The president ended his remarks with a plea to the press. "Pay attention to this. This is important. This is what's going to make a difference in this country over the long haul. This is what inspires me and gets me up every day. This is what we should be focusing on in our public debates," he said.