The White House Science Fair is as much about science and technology policy as it is about celebrating how our young people explore science and technology. For instance, at this year’s fair the President noted some developments in supporting computer science education, and there were other announcements from the White House on education in all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. They include new government initiatives, pledges from private companies, and reports on the progress of several initiatives in many different agencies (not just the Education Department) to encourage more STEM learning. (Even more details on these announcements and progress reports are available from the White House.)
While the White House was thinking about science and technology policy when organizing the White House Science Fair, the participants weren’t necessarily so inclined. Certainly if the project being presented related to specific problems like making vaccination easier, the people may be thinking about policy. But that isn’t likely to be everyone participating in the fair.
Then there’s Jacob Leggette. He’s a nine-year old boy in the Baltimore area who has been interested in programming and making for longer than he can remember. At the Fair he presented several of the toys and items he has designed and built with the help of a 3-D printer. (He negotiated a printer in exchange for product reviews, further demonstrating his drive and imagination.)
So, while describing his work to the President, Legette asked if he had a child science adviser. The idea stuck with the President to the point that he brought it up during his remarks later in the fair. He said that
“[W]e should have a kid’s advisory group that starts explaining to us what’s interesting to them and what’s working, and could help us shape advances in STEM education. Anyway, that was Jacob’s idea. So way to go, Jacob. We’re going to follow up on that.”
This idea certainly has merit, and I hope it gets the follow up that the President promised. It would be great if Jacob had an opportunity to participate in such a group, but even if he doesn’t, kudos to Jacob for always taking advantage of the opportunities he’s made for himself.