Christian Gibbons

Innovation at the 2016 White House Science Fair

Christian Gibbons

In my youth, my proficiency and interest in science was stymied by my indecision regarding a career. When asked the famous question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I almost never had an answer. Those who knew me believed that, one day, I would be involved in something either scientific or artistic. But it wasn’t until a month before I graduated high school that I finally realized what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

For others, no such problem exists. The factors that hindered me as a child—difficulty connecting to my peers, a hesitation to believe that I could make a real difference—do not hinder the many promising young participants of the annual White House Science Fair. And this is a wonderful thing.

The 2016 White House Science Fair, held this past April, was the largest to date. When the annual event first started in 2010, about 40 students participated. Six years later, that number has swelled to encompass more than 130 students from over 30 different states. President Obama, who has attempted to reach out and encourage the participation of young women and minorities in STEM fields, has seemingly done well with that goal. Maya Varma was one such young woman who was invited to the occasion, coming all the way from San José, California, to exhibit a lung-disease monitoring app that she had created using free software and a smartphone. Manasa Hari Bhimaraju, another accomplished young inventor from California, displayed a device she calls the Elementor, a tool that utilizes lights and various sounds to explain the elements on the atomic chart to blind and vision-impaired individuals.

“It’s hard to describe just how impressive these young people are,” reflected the president at the first fair. “We can think of Einstein, Edison, Franklin, Tesla, and the founders of Google, Apple, and Microsoft. But now we’ve got some other people to think about.”

Past participants were also welcomed back, such as Elana Simon, who, in 2014, explored the cause of a rare liver cancer that she had been diagnosed with. In addition to attempting to help those with cancer or disabilities, other projects at the White House Science Fair have also focused on issues with the environment and LGBT youth. The work that these bright young innovators are doing definitely seems to demonstrate that the future of America is in good hands.

Did You Know?

Bill Nye the proverbial “Science Guy” was actually taught by the famous cosmologist Carl Sagan while studying for his bachelor of science degree. Nye is now the CEO of the Planetary Society, the largest non-governmental organization for the promotion of space exploration—an organization that Carl Sagan cofounded.

Photo Credit: Matt Wade Photography

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