WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- President Obama, hosting the inaugural White House Science Fair, says student-scientists should receive the same presidential recognition as student-athletes.
After visiting some of the winning exhibits from competitions in science, technology, engineering and math competitions across the country, Obama told the audience that the projects and their creators demonstrated "the promise of America."
Noting he's hosted winning college and professional sports teams at the White House and the hoopla created when the final buzzer sounds, Obama said Monday, "You know, when you win first place at a science fair, nobody's rushing the field or dumping Gatorade over your head."
"I just want to recognize all the incredibly talented young men and women who have traveled here from every corner of this country to demonstrate their experiments and their inventions," Obama told the gathering, adding, "It's hard to describe just how impressive these young people are."
Work from cancer therapies to robotic cars "is a testament to the potential that awaits when we inspire young people to take part in the scientific enterprise: tackling tough problems, testing new hypotheses, to try and then to fail and then to try again until they succeed," he said.
He cited one high school student who taught herself chemistry to see if she could create a therapy for cancer cells using light activation "and is now being contacted by laboratories across the country to see if this might actually have applications in terms of curing cancer."
Several Nobel laureates, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu, television science personality Bill Nye and newly sworn-National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh were in the house.
Obama reiterated his administration's goal moving from the middle to the top in math and science education worldwide during the next decade.
"It is unacceptable to me, and I know it's unacceptable to you for us to be ranked, on average, as 21st or 25th (in science and math), not with so much at stake," Obama said. "We don't play for second place here in America. We certainly don't play for 25th."
Obama thought about checking out whether a soccer ball-kicking robot could smack a ball toward the media pool.
"Let's just point it this way and see what happens," Obama said, adding, "I thought it might be fun."
The request went unfulfilled.