President Obama hosts White House Science Fair. Did anybody win?

If championship sports teams are invited to the White House, President Obama reasons, then so should winners of science fairs.

Susan Walsh/AP
President Barack Obama watches as a marshmallow is launched by a gun designed by Joey Hudy of Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington during the White House Science Fair.

President Obama hosted a White House Science Fair Tuesday, in case you haven’t heard. From the Red Room to the State Dining Room, the executive mansion was full of those fold-out cardboard display boards we all remember from middle school. Next to them were groups of students eager to explain their projects to anyone who happened by.

No, no one studied whether watering bean sprouts with dishwater reduces unemployment. Wiseacre. No one really won, either. It wasn’t a real science fair, in the sense that no ribbons were handed out. It was more of a get-together for kids who’d already won other science or technology competitions.

“If we invite the team that wins the Super Bowl to the White House, then we need to invite some science fair winners to the White House as well,” said Obama.

Darn straight! Could Eli Manning whip up a study on the effect of gender on the Stroop effect? We think not. (Look it up.)

Anyway, some of the projects were incredibly ingenious. One of our favorites was the dissolvable sugar packets invented by 16-year old Hayley Hoverter from a business magnet high school in Los Angeles. Just toss them in your grandissimo hot beverage, and voila. No crumpled bits of paper to litter the floor.

“Tell me when I can buy stock,” said Obama after viewing this concept.

We also liked the sanitizing lunchbox. It was the product of a couple of sixth graders from Kansas City, Missouri, named Ma’Kese Wesley and Isis Thompson. When the lunchbox closes, a UV light goes on and kills germs.

Then there was Samantha Garvey, an 18-year old from Bay Shore, New York, whose years-long study of the mussel population in Long Island Sound earned her a semi-final spot in the Intel Science Search. When she learned of this achievement she and her family were living in a homeless shelter.  

“So think about what she’s overcome,” said Obama.

But the big hit was probably the Extreme Marshmallow Cannon. This was a two-foot wooden stand with a PVC pipe contraption on top and an air compressor in the back. Obama himself helped pump up the compressor, and then fired a marshmallow that hit the wall of the State Dining Room.

That’s just what America needs – heavier weaponry for food fights.

Anyway, the White House announced a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering the nation’s science, technology, and math (STEM) education, including an $80 million request in the upcoming budget to help train STEM teachers and a $100 million National Science Foundation investment to improve STEM education practices in schools.

The Obama administration had previously announced a goal of 100,000 new STEM teachers and one million more STEM graduates over the next decade.

“That is a goal we can achieve,” said Obama.

Obama also highlighted a venture partially funded by Time Warner Cable, with the involvement of the entertainer Will.i.am, in which kids think up ideas for stuff they’d like to invent and send them to the website WouldntItBeCoolif.com.

Finalists will get to pitch their ideas to a panel of inventor pros. Here are two suggestions from middle schoolers we know: plates that change color in a microwave so you know how hot they are, and sofas with cat scratching posts built into the corners. (Why fight it? They’re going to claw there anyway.)

Got your own ideas? Post them in comments – and send them to the site mentioned above.

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