WASHINGTON — Seven ninth-graders from the U.S. Army’s eCYBERMISSION program converged Feb. 6-7 to showcase their budding scientific curiosity for President Obama.
“The young people I met today, the young people behind me — you guys inspire me,” Obama said, according to whitehouse.gov. “It’s young people like you that make me so confident that America’s best days are still to come.”
About 100 students from across the country displayed their research at the second White House Science Fair as part of the president’s initiatives to improve America’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics performance. Obama hosted the first fair in late 2010.
REGIONAL WINNERS HEAD TO NATION’S CAPITAL
Regional winners Team Charger 4 from Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C., and Team Dr. MED from the STEM Academy at Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio anxiously prepared their exhibits Feb. 6 in the East Room.
Emily Ashkin, Matthew Howard and Alexander Roupas comprise Team Charger 4. Jocelyn Hernandez, Ricardo Rodriguez, Nathaly Salazar and Carlos Zapata make up Team Dr. MED.
“I thought my teacher was kidding. I immediately started crying because it’s such an honor to be here. My exact thoughts were, ‘I’m stepping where the president has stepped,’ ” said Ashkin, explaining her reaction to the White House invitation. She is planning a career in medical research.
STUDENTS AIM TO IMPROVE THEIR COMMUNITIES
eCYBERMISSION is a free, Web-based STEM competition for sixth- through ninth-graders where teams compete for state, regional and national awards while working to solve problems in their community. The U.S. Army sponsors the competition.
Students identifying a scientific problem and researching a solution are core aspects of eCYBERMISSION.
Salazar, who hopes to become a neurosurgeon, and her teammates investigated the improper disposal of medications in San Antonio.
“Our project was about the disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals and how it affects our environment,” Salazar said. “We need to promote public awareness to prevent this from hurting future generations and our environment.”
The team concluded that the introduction of pharmaceuticals have an impact on the pH, alkalinity, hardness, nitrites and nitrates in water sources, resulting in negative implications for the ecology of Edwards Aquifer.
“I have learned that anyone can make a difference in our nation,” said Hernandez, who plans a career in biomedical advocacy. “We have science, technology, engineering and math subjects to give us the opportunity to solve the problems in our communities.”
Team Charger 4 created an inexpensive and easily accessible way to improve unsanitary water conditions in underdeveloped countries. The team concocted a solution of unsanitary water to test a water purification system using reverse osmosis.
“It’s our national duty to forge ahead in STEM education. It’s an honor to be a part of this program,” Ashkin said.
ARMY ADVOCATES STEM EDUCATION
Jeff Singleton, the director of basic research, lab management and educational outreach for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, hosted the students with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Singleton lauded the eCYBERMISSION participants for their commitment to STEM education.
“What are the strengths of the nation? It’s always been ingenuity. Math and science are big drivers behind that,” Singleton said. “Where do you create new products? How do you create new ideas?”
The nation depends on aspiring, talented scientists and engineers to continue the work of previous generations, Singleton said.
“We focus on our educational outreach activities to help build this talent pool,” Singleton said. “We want our homegrown talent to be capable to provide for the next generations. It’s important to the president; that’s why he’s holding this science fair at the White House.”
PRESIDENT RECOGNIZES STUDENTS’ ACHIEVEMENTS
Obama said that a robust STEM workforce is vital to continuing America’s role as a technical innovator, as well as the country’s economic future.
“When students excel in math and science, they help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future. That’s why I’m proud to celebrate outstanding students at the White House Science Fair, and to announce new steps my administration and its partners are taking to help more young people succeed in these critical subjects,” Obama said.