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Sensing & Measurement

Obama calls student science projects inspiring for the future

CNN / SPIE Newsroom
18 October 2010


President Obama talks with Erika DeBenedictis, 18, a student at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, following the White House Science Fair. DeBenedictis won the top award in the Intel Science Talent Search for a software navigation system to improve spacecraft travel through the solar system. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama hosted the first White House Science Fair on October 18, saying it is time for student inventors to receive the same recognition as sports heroes.

After seeing some of the winning exhibits from science and engineering competitions across the country, Obama told an East Room audience that the inventions on display and the students who made them are inspiring and demonstrate "the promise of America."

The White House event was held in conjunction with the USA Science and Engineering Festival, which will culminate in the Grand Finale Expo on the National Mall in Washington, DC, October 23-24.

SPIE will be represented with an exhibit in the expo. Several students from local SPIE Student Chapters will help staff the booth, including representatives from chapters at North Carolina State University, Boston University, and University of Maryland College Park. Two regular SPIE members will also be helping: Dr. Michael Postek (NIST) and Dr. Carmiña Londoño (NSF).

Photonics was well represented among the 11 projects showcased at the White House event. These included:

  • Middle School Student with a Winning Model Solar Car. A freshman at Central Catholic High School, Mikayla Nelson hails from Billings, Montana and represents the Will James Middle School team with their solar car. Mikayla helped build the carbon-fiber vehicle from scratch, and it won first place in the design document and fifth in the race at the Department of Energy's Junior Solar Sprint, a model car race for students and a "hands-on" engineering experience.
  • Research on Interplanetary Travel. A freshman at the California Institute of Technology, Erika DeBenedictis won the Intel Science Talent Search's top award in 2010. She developed a software navigation system to help improve spacecraft travel through the solar system from her research on gravity and planetary movement. The Intel Science Talent Search invites the country's most promising young innovators to participate in America's oldest and most prestigious pre-collegiate science competition to tackle challenging scientific questions.
  • Winner of Largest Engineering Fair Takes Innovative Steps In Cancer Research. Amy Chyao, a junior at Williams High School, hails from Richardson, Texas and won first place and the Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. She developed a photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy, using light energy to activate a drug that kills cancer cells. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is the world's largest pre-college science fair competition with more than 6 million young scientists vying to attend; 1,500 finalists compete for over $4 million in awards and scholarships.
  • National Winner of Largest Student Robotics Competition. Evan Ostrow, Ryan Morris, Emily Ostrow, Gina Triolo, and Jennifer Herchek hail from Ambler, Pennsylvania and represent Wissahickon High School's Robotics Program. They won the highest honor at the 2010 FIRST Robotics Championship for their robot "Miss Daisy." The competition challenges high-school student teams to build robots from a kit of hundreds of parts, competing against 340 teams.
  • All-girl Robotics Team Wins Middle School Challenge. Catherine Wooten, Taylor Halsey, Salia Wilson hail from Los Angeles, California and represent the Rock n' Roll Robots, a team composed of all Girl Scouts. They won the Inspire Award, the most prestigious award at the 2010 FIRST Tech Challenge, honoring the team that performs well in all categories and deemed as the most desirable alliance partner by their peers. The FIRST Tech Challenge presents high-school student teams with the chance to design and program robots and compete against other teams in an alliance format.

Full story and video from CNN
White House press release: President Obama Hosts White House Science Fair