By: Eileen Marable
This week has been very special. Not only did the President preside over his sixth and final White House Science Fair on Wednesday, but the bi-annual U.S. Science and Engineering Festival closes out the week. Both events emphasize nurturing an interest in curiosity, learning and exploring the fields of science, technology, math and engineering. Obama has called it the “Mars Generation.”
This generation is being taught that innovation and research is fun and confidence building. It’s not just something you have to wait to “aspire” to one day, but science and its various tracks are things children and teenagers can embrace at any time. When looking at the programs of both events, perhaps what’s most inspiring to me and the folks here at Science Channel, are the projects on display from these teens have in large part been driven by a desire to help others.
From the White House Science Fair, there was the group of middle-schoolers inspired to computer design and 3-D print more flexible prosthetic limbs allowing the wounded veterans at a neighboring Air Force base to manage uneven terrain on hikes and other everyday activities. Tackling cancer detection through identifying circulating cancer genes and studying the effects of low doses of radiation on health care workers were two other projects generated by a desire to keep people healthy.
Robots, 3-D printing and code? They’re part of our future and natural tools for the Mars Generation. We loved the team that engineered a robot to clean the New York City subway system to make commuting healthier and more efficient. The girls that created an app to connect, entertain and battle anxiety in cancer patients waiting for treatment were impressive.
The President was joined by science celebrities, astronauts, mentors and science educators to talk and listen to the young participants. As usual, the event was widely covered on social media with VIPs taking to their devices to gush over kids that knocked their socks off with bold presentations and in some, the casual attitude that science isn’t some dusty pursuit but fun and rewarding.
President Obama acknowledged the need to make STEM careers accessible and interesting pursuits among the range of choices for careers. As he put it in his remarks,
“As a society, we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science at least as much as we do Super Bowl winners.”
President Obama genuinely believes in science and the Mars Generation. Not only did he host the White House Science Fair this week, but he also hosted a week of our daily news program “Science Presents DNews at 9” covering the topics he’s passionate about – from climate change awareness and space exploration to STEM education. We are honored he took the time to stop by, and you can catch up on his segments here on Sciencechannel.com.
Science Channel decided to not only keep an eye on the amazing give and take at the White House, we’ve also been busy communicating that science is something that can be hands on and fun! On Wednesday, my colleague Amber and I played an impromptu game of “Sink or Float” via Facebook Live. Our biggest surprise was that a pineapple floated, despite being pretty darn heavy! In our first foray into demonstrating live science experiments, we had a lot of laughs, got very messy and learned a great respect for science teachers. We were FAR from perfect in our ability to communicate the variables of density, but that just made us want to sharpen our skills for the next time.
Until that happens we’ll continue to bring you real experts, like those visiting the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival here in Washington, DC. Our fans loved the Facebook Live Q&A with Astronaut Jessica Meir with over 3,000 thousand comments/questions. Everyone at the Science Channel was overwhelmed by how smart and curious our fans are, and the wonderful questions people asked.
The Festival continues today, Saturday the 16th and tomorrow, Sunday the 17th and is open to the public free of charge starting at 10am every day. All you need is your curiosity. There will be over 3,000 hands-on activities and demonstrations covering everything from aerospace and conservation paleontology and robots, with science celebrities and communicators taking the stage all weekend long. Follow what’s going on via Twitter with #SciFest and on here on Facebook.
We’re even getting into the act by hosting “America’s Science Teacher,” Steve Spengler in another Facebook Live Q&A starting at 10 a.m. before he goes on stage at the event. Get your questions ready for a guy who has devoted his life to reminding us there is a lot of “wow” in science. There’s no need to be shy here at Science Channel. We’ll also be walking the floor of the Festival taking careful notes about the trends we see bubbling up in the science world so we can make sure to bring them to you.
While technically this special week of science kicked off by our President comes to an end on Sunday, we’re still your science buddy 24/7 on-air on Science Channel, online at Sciencechannel.com and all over the social space via @ScienceChannel. Reach out and say hello!