“I’m a nerd, and I don’t make any apologies for it,” President Obama said, stepping out of an International Space Station docking simulator at the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh earlier this fall.
Whether spending time with top students at the White House Science Fair or learning about multiparameter flow cytometry with biomedical scientists, Obama makes it cool to be a nerd.
White House Science Fair
Obama has filled the White House with whiz kids for the White House Science Fair every year since 2010. Students have shown off projects on 3-D printing, electricity generation and vaccine transport. It’s one of Obama’s favorite events, although he has teased that he’s seen “an alarming number of robots.”
South by South Lawn
In 2016, Obama started South by South Lawn, an innovation, film and music festival akin to a grown-up White House Science Fair, inspired by the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas. Participants brought ideas for making food more nutritious, improving worker rights and combating climate change. Oh, and they brought Legos — thousands of Legos as life-size sculptures that wowed the crowd.
Journey to Mars
Obama has pledged the U.S. will get humans on Mars by the 2030s. By doing so, “we won’t just benefit from related advances in energy, medicine, agriculture and artificial intelligence, we’ll benefit from a better understanding of our environment and ourselves,” he said.
First line of code
By writing that code, the president was able to move Elsa, a character from the Disney movie Frozen, forward 100 pixels, the tiny points that make up images on a computer screen.
The combination of science, tech and people with big ideas has Obama more optimistic than ever about the future.
“I get the sense that today’s young people are proud to be smart and curious, to design new things, and tackle big problems in unexpected ways,” he said.
“I think America’s a nerdier country than it was when I was a kid — and that’s a good thing!”