White House Student Film Festival Looks To The Future

The White House is looking for submissions to its third Student Film Festival.  The theme is “The World I Want to Live In,” which is broad enough for interested student filmmakers (students in grades K-12) to tackle any number of themes.  So if you were hoping the Festival would stick with its focus on works making the case for technology in schools, I think you could still fit under this year’s theme.

Films have to be uploaded to YouTube by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on July 15.  The films can be no longer than three minutes, use no unauthorized content, and have been made since the beginning of the contest (March 24, 2015).  There will be two rounds of judging, and Obama administration staff will make the decisions in collaboration with staff of the American Film Institute.  Finalists will have their work shown at the White House and promoted through the White House internet presence.

If you’d like a look at past Film Festival finalists, check the Film Festival website (or the various Film Festival playlists on YouTube).

Google Looking For Good Scripts For Computer Science

At the Tribeca Film Festival last week Google announced that its CS Education in Media Program is partnering with the website The Black List for a fellowship competition to support the image of computer science and computer scientists in media (H/T STEMDaily).  The Black List is a screenwriting site known for hosting the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The fellowship could award up to $15,000 for as many as three scripts (one film script and two episodic television pilots).  The writers would use the money to support their work on new materials for six months.  At the end of that period the writer(s) would present that work to Google along with a summary of how the grant helped advance that work and/or affected their career.

The submitted work would change the perception of computer science and/or computer scientists in popular culture.  Projects that feature underrepresented groups in computer science would certainly qualify.  The Black List will review the scripts submitted and select 10 for further consideration by Google.  Those finalists will include a short biography with their work.  Google would then choose as many as three recipients, but may decide not to award any if they don’t believe the 10 are of sufficient merit.

The competition period ends on July 15th.  Contestants would need to post their submission on The Black List, and meet several other eligibility requirements (such as the work is original and the writer is able to enter a contract).  Any script on The Black List that has a paid evaluation by 11:59 p.m. on June 15th is eligible for consideration, but authors will have to opt in to the competition.  While the site does not explicitly state this, it would seem that an evaluation – and paying the fee – must happen in order to compete.

STEM Is On The Fastrack

On the Fastrack is a long running comic strip set at a modern day business.  Many of the characters featured in the strip are technologically inclined, but technology is not as explicit of a theme in the strip as it is in say, Foxtrot or Dilbert.

Starting with Saturday’s strip (April 23) the comic is running a storyline around STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Fistula Breech has been asked to make a presentation on STEM to encourage girls to take math and science classes.  But Fi is far from a people person and is getting help from Dethany, a co-worker, on the presentation.

I’m not sure how long the storyline will go (as often happens, the Sunday strip is separate from the weekday story), and cannot find any indication that the storyline has been done in partnership with an organization seeking to promote STEM or STEM education.  Regardless, On the Fastrack isn’t the first, and likely won’t be the last comic strip I’ve seen tackle a science and/or technology story on the funny pages.

Science Fair Roundup: White House, Intel And Google

If you weren’t able to be at the last White House Science Fair, the White House has some video for you.  As is now custom (one I hope will continue), the White House has a video where staff talk with some of the kids exhibiting at the Fair.

There is also video of the President’s remarks.

If it’s not already clear, the White House Science Fair is effectively the tip of a policy iceberg for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.  While it certainly raises the public profile of science, the acceptance and encouragement it provides students in these fields is likely more important.  The numbers in this piece from the Harvard Political Review give some shape to the growth of the fair and the multiple STEM education policies the Obama Administration has implemented.

The White House Science Fair has often recognized top performers in the Intel Science Talent Search (STS), the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and the Google Science Fair.  The Intel Science Talent Search announced its finalists in March, and the ISEF will announce its 2016 finalists in May.  The Google Science Fair will close its 2016 competition cycle in May as well.  Finalists will be announced in late summer.

Bioethics Commission Looking Retrospectively In Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Commission) will be in Washington, D.C. on May 3.  There is one more Commission meeting scheduled after the May meeting, and that may be the last Commission meeting before it finishes its work (and President Obama leaves office).

I base that in part on this Federal Register notice the Commission released last month (which states the Commission has two more meetings) and on the agenda for the May 5th meeting.  That agenda is focused on the past, present and future influence of national bioethics advisory bodies.  The Commission will discuss the topic with several academics and the head of the Commission’s Mexican counterpart, CONBIOÉTICA.

The Commission is also interested in input from you.  The Federal Register notice the Commission released last month was a request for comments on:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of different models for national bioethics advisory bodies, e.g., standing or temporary, narrowly or broadly focused (examining one topic or issue or a variety of issues);
  • The lessons we can learn from national bodies in other countries to inform how U.S. bodies might work;
  • The influence of national bioethics bodies on bioethics as a field; other academic fields, such as science, medicine, and technology; and public policy;
  • The future of national bioethics advisory groups in the United States.

Comments must be received by July 1.

Presumably the Commission is consulting with the International Network for Governmental Science Advice (INGSA), I certainly think that INGSA would be interested in the comments and any reports or other documents to come from them and the meeting on May 5th.

At Least One Participant In The White House Science Fair Was Thinking Science Policy

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.

Last White House Science Fair Takes Place Next Month

Today the White House announced that April 13th will be the date of the last White House Science Fair for the Obama Administration.  These events bring some of the hundreds of students in primary and secondary grades doing interesting work in science and technology to the White House.  While no official listing is out for this year, past Science Fairs have had online coverage featuring segments with notable scientists, engineers and science communicators.

President Obama was the first President to host a White House Science Fair, and of all the science and technology education promotion this Administration has done, this is probably the most fun.  I wish there were more science and technology activities hosted by the government that had a sense of fun.  For better or for worse, I think all credit for this sense of fun goes to the President, and even if there is another White House Science Fair, it won’t be the same.

The administration’s sixth Science Fair will take place at the White House on April 13th, and the White House wants to hear from young scientists and engineers about their science fair projects.  If you’d like to share, visit this website and fill out the form by 5 p.m. Eastern time on April 5th.