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The bicycle next to President Obama powers a filter that can make enough clean drinking water to save lives in an emergency. (Aude Guerrucci-Pool / Getty Images)

Science Fair at the White House

President Obama celebrates young inventors from across the country

By Hannah Prensky | April 25 , 2013
<p>Students from 40 states brought science projects ranging from high-tech research to wacky new inventions. (Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post via Getty Images)</p>

Students from 40 states brought science projects ranging from high-tech research to wacky new inventions. (Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

On Monday, President Barack Obama hosted the third annual White House Science Fair. The event highlights how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education can inspire young people to think creatively and accomplish great things.

“I just had the chance to have a look at the outstanding exhibits put forward by these young people,” the President said. “And let me just say in my official capacity as President: This stuff is really cool!”

One hundred student winners of STEM competitions from 40 states showed off their work at the White House. The students’ projects ranged from breakthrough research to new inventions.


One of the standout student inventors was 16-year-old Jack Andraka from Maryland. Jack developed a paper sensor for detecting pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer. The sensor identifies the presence of a chemical in a blood or urine sample that indicates a person has cancer.

Jack says his cancer test costs three cents and takes five minutes to run. He hopes his invention will help many Americans. Each year, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with one of these deadly cancers.

“So far it’s 100 percent accurate and it detects cancer in its early stages, when someone has much better chances of survival,” Jack told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps.

A group of grade-schoolers from Georgia came up with a new invention called Cool Pads. These special sports pads help athletes maintain a safe body temperature. Cool Pads use temperature sensors to check whether an athlete is getting too hot. This then activates ice packs under the shoulder pads that help players cool down if necessary.

Cool Pads were created by 10-year-old Evan Jackson and 8-year-olds Alec Jackson and Caleb Robinson. They play football and noticed firsthand how overheating and dehydration affect players on the field.

Another invention on display was a bicycle-powered water-sanitation station. It filters harmful bacteria from contaminated water. Florida high schoolers Payton Karr and Kiona Elliot led the team of 16 inventors who built the device.

“In an emergency, such as after a disaster in a place like Haiti or after a hurricane, this device can … produce enough water to hydrate 20 to 30 people during a 15-hour period,” Payton explained.


The student inventors said they learned some great lessons from their experience at the White House. They also had advice for other kids who might have a big idea.

“A good inventor doesn’t have to be smart,” Jack says. “You have to be creative and think outside the box. All these ideas start out like crazy ideas, but you have to believe in your project.”

Hannah Prensky is a member of the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps.

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