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Afterschool Programs Show Off STEM Skills at the White House Science Fair

By Ramya Sankar


Members of The Flying Monkeys—a team of Girls Scouts from Ames, IA—presented their patent-pending prosthetic to President Obama at the White House Science Fair on Feb. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

On Tuesday, President Obama held the second White House Science Fair as part of his commitment to encourage youth to explore and excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.  The event convened winners of several STEM competitions from across the United States to the halls of the White House to showcase their projects.

More than 30 team projects representing more than 100 students were on display including a project by The Flying Monkeys, a team of Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa.  The Flying Monkeys presented their patent-pending prosthetic that enables individuals to grip and hold items.  The team was inspired to design the prosthetic after learning about a young girl in Georgia who was born without fingers on her right hand.  The team did their research by visiting a prosthetics manufacturer and an occupational therapist prior to designing and building their prototype.  They entered their idea into FIRST Lego League’s Global Innovators Competition in which they competed against 179 teams from 16 countries to win $20,000 to develop their idea.

The White House provided a live webcast of the science fair  as the president walked through the displays and listened to the students explain their work.  Many of the projects were inspired by a desire to improve lives and make an impact on their community. Click here for videos and photos from the event.

Directly following the science fair, the president addressed a crowd of students, educators and STEM community leaders to congratulate the students and announce new initiatives to encourage students in STEM and support STEM educators.  Obama began his remarks by reiterating his position that "if we are recognizing athletic achievement, we should also recognize academic achievement and science achievement."

The push to highlight and reward achievement in STEM fields sends a strong signal to youth that the STEM subjects are an important and a worthwhile endeavor.  We need more champions and leaders in our communities, states and on the national level to make STEM education a priority.  If this “all hands-on deck” approach to which the president often refers is going to succeed, it will be because of the countless staff and volunteers at afterschool programs who support and nurture the creative minds like those of The Flying Monkeys!