Live

Watch CBSN Live

Obama to Appear on "Mythbusters"

President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, where he hosted the White House Science Fair to showcase the winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

It was Science Fair day at the White House.

In the State Dining Room, President Obama lingered at each of 15 science projects on display and chatted with the high school kids responsible for them.

Don't dare call them geeks or nerds. The president calls them "inspiring."

It was the president as layman as he listened to eleventh grader Amy Chyau from Richardson, Tx. explain how she taught herself chemistry two years ago and then went on to develop an award-winning photo-dynamic therapy for killing cancer cells in the human body.

Another group of kids demonstrated a steering wheel they developed that detects and sounds a buzzer when a driver takes one of his hands off the wheel for more than three seconds.

Mr. Obama said it would discourage drivers who try to text or eat a burger while driving. He added that it would be a great thing to install on the family car once daughters Malia and Sasha start driving. The team that developed the steering wheel boasted they already have a patent for their invention.

"I am having so much fun," declared Mr. Obama as he appeared before an audience of young scientists and engineers in the East Room to comment on what he'd seen.

"It's inspiring, and I never miss a chance to see cool robots when I get a chance," he said with obvious admiration for the kids he met.

He said their work "is a testament to the potential that awaits when we inspire young people to take part in the scientific enterprise."

More often, it is athletic stars who get attaboys from the president. Since taking office, Mr. Obama has hosted 25 tributes for various college and professional sports teams.

"I thought we ought to do the same thing for the winners of science fairs and robotic contests and math competitions," he said to applause.

"Often, we don't give these victories the attention that they deserve. When you win first place at a science fair, nobody's rushing the field or dumping Gatorade over your head."

Perhaps that's a good thing, but we get his point.

The Science Fair gave Mr. Obama another opportunity to make a pitch for his STEM initiative - to improve student performance in the U.S. in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)

"Despite the importance of inspiring and educating our children in these fields," said Mr. Obama, "in recent years, the fact is we've been outpaced by a lot of our competitors."

He called it "unacceptable" for American 15-year-olds to be ranked 21st in science and 25th in math when compared to their peers around the world. His initiative is designed to move American kids to number one in both fields by the end of the decade.

And he noted the financial payoff available for kids who pursue STEM programs. He said more top CEOs in America have backgrounds in engineering than any other field.

Mr. Obama also announced that to further show his support for investigatory sciences, he taped an appearance on the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" program to air December 8th.

The Mythbusters will - at Mr. Obama's request - test the claim of the ancient Greek scientist Archimedes that he set fire to an invading Roman fleet using only mirrors and the reflected rays of the sun.

Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were at the White House today, but declined to tell reporters how the president's Mythbuster project turned out.

Guess we'll have to tune in.

Mr. Obama said his only regret with doing Mythbusters was that "I didn't get to blow anything up."


Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.
View CBS News In