Saying "this stuff is really cool," President Obama praised the science projects from some high-achieving students at the third White House science fair. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.
WASHINGTON — It was an offer President Barack Obama couldn't refuse.
"You're welcome to try this out if you like," the Oakland Park, Fla., high school student said.
With that, a president who often laments a lifestyle that denies him the pleasure of driving eagerly hopped on the blue-and-silver bicycle in his dark blue suit and pedaled away — never mind that the machinery didn't take him anywhere.
"Only because these guys really want this," Obama said, gesturing to the small group of reporters and photographers who were brought to a White House garden on Monday to watch the president go from exhibit to exhibit at his third White House science fair.
He said afterward that the science fair is "one of my favorite events during the course of the year."
As Obama pedaled, Payton Karr and Kiona Elliot, classmates at Northeast High School, explained their pedal-powered water filtration system. The collapsible, transportable emergency water-sanitation station filters E. coli and other harmful pathogens from contaminated water. During emergencies, the device can be assembled and broken down in less than an hour, and can produce enough water for 20 to 30 people during a 15-hour period.
Karr and Elliot were among some 30 student teams that were invited to the White House to show off projects that won them top honors in science, technology, engineering and math competitions around the country.
Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama paddles a bicycle-powered emergency water-sanitation system in the East Garden on Monday, during the White House science fair.
Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama checks out a low-cost mini-press that can turn biomass waste products such as banana peels into a viable wood alternative for cooking. The device was designed by students from Pinelands Eco Regional High School in New Jersey.
Larry Downing / Reuters
President Barack Obama views the winning entry in the BEST Robotics category with students from St. Vincent de Paul Middle School in Theodore, Ala., as he hosts the White House science fair in the State Dining Room at the White House. The "Vator" robot is designed to mimic a space elevator by lifting cargo up a 10-foot pole.
Rockets, robots rule
Rockets and robots were among the exhibits, too, along with a fully functioning prosthetic arm that 17-year-old Easton LaChapelle, of Mancos, Colo., made mostly with parts generated from a 3-D printer. He said it cost just a few hundred dollars to make, far less than the $80,000 replacement arm he said had inspired him.
The arm apparently functioned up until a few minutes before Obama stopped at Easton's exhibit in the State Dining Room. Easton told Obama that he'd planned for the prosthetic arm to shake the president's hand. Obama shook hands with the disembodied arm anyway, "because it was working," he said.
Three pint-sized students from Flippen Elementary School in McDonough, Ga., told Obama about the "Cool Pads" they created to help football players stay cool on the field. Evan Jackson, 10, Alec Jackson, 8, and Caleb Robinson, 8, developed the pads for the shoulders, helmet, armpits and groin with built-in temperature sensors to help keep players from overheating. Gatorade is in there, too, so players don't have to leave the field to hydrate.
Obama called their invention "pretty spiffy."
During more formal remarks after he visited a total of a dozen exhibits, Obama praised the students and their projects, which included new ways to detect cancer, create alternatives to burning wood for fuel and breeding new types of algae.
"Young people like these have to make you hopeful about the future of our country," he said.
Obama also announced a new effort to link AmeriCorps national service members with nonprofit groups that promote science, technology, engineering and math. Since taking office in 2009, Obama has been pushing to increase the number of students, including girls, and teachers who pursue these fields.
He also saw the rocket built by Darius Hooker, 19, of Memphis, Tenn., and his high-school classmate Wesley Carter that propelled eggs more than 800 feet into the air and then brought them down unbroken in less than a minute.
"Did the eggs come down OK?" Obama asked.
Hooker said in a telephone interview afterward that he was always interested in "anything that goes up" and that he now thinks of himself as a role model.
"We motivate a lot of people that's our age, younger than us and older than us," he said. Hooker is currently studying for a license in aircraft mechanics at Tennessee Technology Center in Memphis.
More about science at the White House:
- 5 areas of science due for a budget boost
- Obama awards top honors to scientists
- White House pitches brain-mapping project
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