On Tuesday, the White House was the backdrop to the country’s brightest students and their innovations — including hovercrafts, robots, and solar energy-powered contraptions — that potentially could be the game-changing ideas that make up America’s future.
At the fourth annual White House Science Fair, President Barack Obama welcomed a host of youth from across the country to share their ideas, designs, and experiments in science, technology, engineering and math (more commonly known as STEM subjects). This year’s event also focused on females excelling in STEM fields, according to the White House website.
“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software,” said President Obama, “you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.”
Among the host of young people was 12-year-old Peyton Robertson. As a native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Robertson is familiar with flooding and salt-water damage since he grew up in the area of the Sunshine State where hurricanes often strike. So he created a “sandless” sandbag that efficiently protects flood zones. He was recognized as America’s Top Young Scientist at the 2013 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and received $25,ooo for his lightweight, effective design.
Elana Simon, 18, also presented her work, which focuses on patients coping with fibrolamellar, a type of rare liver cancer that she herself endured at age 12. Simon worked with one of her former surgeons to gather tissue samples from fibrolamellar patients to perform genomic sequencing tests and discovered a common genetic mutation among them. Her results have been published in the renowned journal Science, plus she is a recent winner of the American Association for Cancer Research’s Junior Champion in Cancer Research Award. She has also presented her work in front of 16,000 cancer researchers and will attend Harvard this fall to study computer science.
Girl Scout Troop 2612 of Tulsa, Oklahoma, were also among their much-older peers, presenting their design for a “Flood Proof Bridge,” which includes a computer program that automatically retracts the bridge when flood conditions are detected by a motion sensor embedded in the river bed. Eight-year-olds Avery Dodson, Natalie Hurley, Miriam Schaffer, Claire Winton, and Lucy Claire Sharp came up with the model as part of the Junior FIRST Lego League’s Disaster Blaster Challenge, which prompted elementary school students to experiment with simple machines, motorized parts, engineering, and math to create solutions for natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. The intrepid troop built the idea on the notion that first responders had trouble reaching certain communities because of bridges in the wake of the Estes Park, Colorado flood. They not only built the model but also developed the computer program, too.
Check out the rest of the exhibitors here.