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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other senior agency officials joined President Obama in honoring student science fair winners from across the country at the second annual White House Science Fair in the East Wing of the White House. The event highlighted student achievement and excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
In November 2009, the president announced his “Educate to Innovate” campaign and emphasized the importance of encouraging students to pursue STEM studies and careers. NASA has developed a wide variety of education programs that use the inherent excitement of space exploration and science to inspire students and generate interest in STEM.
“Programs like this science fair help students develop critical skills and get hands-on experience that will serve them and our nation well in the future,” Bolden said. “These talented students are tomorrow’s science leaders, and their skills will be critical to helping us make an American economy built to last.”
Joining Bolden at the event were NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin and Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld. Both Melvin and Grunsfeld also are veteran space shuttle astronauts who frequently use their flight experiences as catalysts for engaging students’ interest in space and science. NASA Chief Technologist, Mason Peck, NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati, and Paul Hertz, chief scientist for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, also attended the fair and met with student honorees.
Among the winning science experiments displayed at the White House today were two that related directly to NASA’s mission, including entries from a girls’ rocket team and a FIRST Robotics alliance.
The “Young Women Rocketing to Nationals” team featured Janet and Ana Karen Nieto of Presidio, Texas, who are members of the Presidio High School Rocketry Team that competed as a national finalist in the Team America Rocketry Challenge in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Gwynelle Condino, a 7th grade student at Lucy Franco Middle School in Presidio, is the team’s leader this year.
“A Winning Robotics Alliance, with Astronauts Cheering Them On” team was comprised of John Drake of Schaumburg, Ill., Sean Murphy of Atascadero, Calif., and Eric Bakan of San Jose, Calif. They represented the winning alliance of the 2011 FIRST Robotics Competition Championship and were mentored by engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. Two other NASA-related education programs also were represented at today’s event.
Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), is a hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program where students, teachers and scientists worldwide collaborate on investigations of the environment and the Earth system. Participants work in close partnership with NASA and other federal agencies.
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) was launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, in partnership with NanoRacks.
Student teams in grades 5-12 propose microgravity experiments for flight in a research minilab that may be flown to the International Space Station. SSEP is enabled through a space act agreement as part of the International Space Station’s use as a National Laboratory.