The "Educate to Innovate" campaign has an initial private-sector commitment of more than $260 million from corporate giants such as Intel, Xerox and Time-Warner to take science and math programs "beyond the classroom," Obama told an audience of educators, scientists, mathematicians and engineers, along with science students from several schools.
The key to facing down a variety of global challenges, Obama said, "will be reaffirming and strengthening America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation."
At the grassroots level, teachers and other organizations would being a National Lab Day to reach 10 million young people with hand-on learning and "get their hands dirty," Obama said.
The lab day would give students a chance of "being the makers of things, not just the consumers of things," he said.
The Obama administration also would be involved, he said, by starting an annual national science fair at the White House "to show young people how cool science people can be."
Also, several television giants -- the Discovery Channel and "Sesame Street" -- will provide commercial free education either in the classroom or over the airwaves.
"This is only the beginning," Obama said, adding that he also would challenge the private sector to partner with community colleges to help train today's students for tomorrow's jobs.
"(This) is a difficult time in our country and it would be easy to grow cynical and wonder if America's best days are behind us ... ," Obama said. "But I believe we have an opportunity now to move beyond the failures of the recent past and to recapture that spirit of American innovation and optimism."