"Reaffirming and strengthening America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century," said Obama." That's why I am committed to making the improvement of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] education over the next decade a national priority."
The campaign involves key partnerships with organizations from Sesame Street to Sony (whose PlayStation 3 console will be used for strengthening young minds through game design competitions), and it also features help from individuals such as Sally Ride (the first female astronaut) and a handful of digitally focused CEOs.
The Geek-In-Chief is also starting an annual science fair at the White House to inspire and promote young geeks who are doing great things in hardware, software, technology, science and robotics. We need, he said, to teach children to "be makers, not consumers.
"If you win the NCAA champtionships, you get to come to the White House... We're going to show young people how cool science can be."
And why do American kids need this level of convincing? Brace yourselves for bad news, patriots: Kids in the U.S. rank in the mid-twenties when scored against 30 other nations for math and science literacy. We are being drastically outperformed in these areas; in a time when technological innovation is the foundation and impetus for a lot of other cultural and economic factors, can we afford to not develop competencies in tech and science?
The President doesn't think so, and he's directing funds accordingly. He further announced that the $4.35 billion Race to the Top school grant program will give preference to states that commit to improving STEM education.
Obama hopes the campaign will increase STEM literacy for students, improve the quality of teaching in these areas, and promote better education and work opportunities for underrepresented groups - such as women and minorities - in tech.
In the recent past, we've told you about Obama's financial and moral support for startups, his masterful use of the social web - both as a candidate for the office and as President - and the change, recovery, data, and health care reform initiatives he's conducted online. He may not personally use Twitter (yet), but he does use a Creative Commons license for his Flickr photos. It seems fairly clear to us that Obama cares about where the country is going technologically, and we hope this focus on STEM education will help us all in the long term.
Check out the President's 18-minute address, which outlines his plan to use the $260 million-valued campaign to bring struggling American students into world domination:
Check out some of the implementations of the partnerships Obama references above on the Digital Media and Learning Competition website, and look out for Discovery Channel's commercial-free block of science programming for kids launching next year.
And for those of you with an inclination to volunteer, check out this National Lab Day website matching classroom needs to volunteer expertise. American kids apparently need to learn about phone app programming, entrepreneurialism and plain old hardware just as much as they need to focus on engineering robots - a favorite topic of teachers, students and the President, as well.
"I believe that robotics can inspire students," he said while introducing a student project designed to collect and throw moon rocks. "I also want to keep an eye on those robots in case they try anything." We officially love you, Mr. President. And yes, let's get those kids into labs and in front of glowing screens - for the right reasons this time.