Some of America’s brightest students visited the White House today as President Obama hosted his sixth and final science fair, an event created to recognize the work of the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.
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"Some of the best moments that I have had as president have involved science and our annual science fair," Obama said after viewing the exhibits at White House. He discussed the multiple robots he has seen at previous events and recalled how each year brings new findings, including the time he "shot marshmallows out of a cannon."
Obama heralded the projects prepared by the more than 130 participants -- who came from elementary, middle and high schools -- and said he saw ingenuity, curiosity and teamwork involved in what each of the students prepared. Participants also were acknowledged for leadership in education, business and the nonprofit world.
"The only problem with the science fair is it makes me feel inadequate," Obama quipped.
He said he wants to be given partial acknowledgment for any major discoveries that might be produced by the talent gathered in the room, including a possible "cancer cure" or finding a source of "cheap, clean energy."
"I'll take some of the credit. I'll say, 'if it hadn't been for the White House science fair, who knows what might have been,'" Obama said as the room filled with laughter.
One of the most intriguing projects this year came from 9-year-old Jacob Leggette of Baltimore, Maryland. After being introduced to 3-D printing, he wrote letters to different companies and asked if they would donate a 3-D printer to him in return for feedback. His pitch to the printing companies worked, and he has been creating various toys and games ever since.
While Obama toured the dozens of projects on display at the White House, he talked to students, asked questions about their projects, experimented with the interactive displays -- and at each stop offered praise for the hard work.
When Obama met with Jacob, who was donning a bow tie and suit for his White House visit, the Baltimore native made sure to answer all the president’s questions with a sharp "yes, sir."
Jacob showed off his 3-D printer and all the products he had helped to design, including soapy water and a tube of bubbles.
"Okay, let’s test it out," Obama said, adding a cautionary note, "It’s been a while since I’ve done this."
Blowing out bubbles and saying "there you go! That’s kind of fun!" the president seemed to enjoy his playful visit and admire Jacob’s line of products.
Jacob then told the commander-in-chief he had a question for him.
"Do you have a child scientist adviser?" Jacob asked.
Obama said he did not but commended him for the idea and offered a counter proposal: "Let’s put together a child adviser committee." The president said it could be filled with kids of different ages and that the schedule would be light enough that they would still will have time to do their homework.
Another student, Olivia Hallisey, 17, of Greenwich, Connecticut, created a diagnostic test for the detection of the Ebola virus. And a team of middle-school students from Colorado were recognized for their design of a functional prosthetic for a local veteran.
Obama established the tradition of the White House Science Fair in 2010 to celebrate the nation’s top young innovators. He has emphasized science education is key to "what makes America the greatest country on Earth" and often talks about his wonder of science and technology, making his final fair a bit of a bittersweet moment.
The president also announced today a $200 million investment from Oracle, a technology company, for computer science education that will help 125,000 students.
"We could not be prouder of all the students," Obama said. "We are counting on all of you to help us build a brighter future."