White House Announces $240mil in New STEM Ed Pledges

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President Barack Obama is planning to announce pledges received from the private sector totaling over $240 million, all to be put toward increasing student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.  The announcement will come during the White House Science Fair.

The increase in funding came from a $90 million campaign which sought to increase STEM opportunities for underrepresented youth, including girls and minorities, in addition to a philanthropic effort that raised $150 million to help new scientists remain in their field.

The new commitments have increased the total financial and material support for these programs to $1 billion.

More than 100 colleges and universities have committed to train 20,000 engineers, and a coalition of chief executive officers promised to help increase the the education programs that focus on STEM studies to benefit an additional 1.5 million students in 2015.

Launched in 2009, “Educate to Innovate” hopes to increase student interest in STEM education.  The White House Science Fair will help the movement by offering students an additional opportunity to pursue science, technology, engineering and math.  In its fifth year, over 35 teams qualified to participate this year, writes Dianne Depra for Tech Times.

The fair celebrates breakthroughs in STEM research, including spinal implants, carbon-dioxide powered batteries, and a keystroke identity system that has the ability to backup computer password securities.  Other projects included a new blood test that can decipher how well a heart is functioning, as well as an artificial intelligence program that can increase the process involved in finding the right drugs for certain diseases.

President Obama kicked off the event by meeting participants in the White House.

“It’s not enough for our country just to be proud of you. We’ve got to support you,” Obama said later, addressing students and scientists in the White House East Room.

Of all the displays, Obama seemed to show the most interest in a Lego machine that turns the pages of a story book to be used by handicapped people who want to read, created by kindergartners and first-graders from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Obama said the girls came up with machine during a “brainstorming session,” and that the machine they brought was “only a prototype.”

One of the girls asked, “‘Mr. President, have you had brainstorming sessions?’” the president reported. “I said, yes, but I didn’t come up with something as cool as this.”

Competing high school seniors were also finalists in the 2015 Intel Science Talent Search, which recognizes potential in innovative research projects throughout the STEM subjects.

Obama said the fair is one of the most fun events held annually at the White House. “Every year I walk out smarter than when I walked in,” Obama said.