"The Secret Service isn't happy about this," President Barack Obama joked with eighth-grader Joey Hudy, of Phoenix, Ariz., as he convinced the kid to launch a marshmallow across the crowded room on Feb. 7 at the White House (see picture below).


The student scientist and the commander in chief were hamming it up at the second White House Science Fair, where Obama stressed the importance of science and engineering education for our country's future and announced increased investment in science education from both the public and private sector.


"This is what's going to make a difference in the country over the long haul. This is what inspires me and gets me up every day. This is what we should be focusing on in our public debates," Obama said. "This is the kind of stuff, what these young people are doing, that's going to make a bigger difference in the life of our country over the long term than just about anything."


Science's future

Obama honored 100 students from 40 different science competitions across the country. He was joined by Bill Nye the Science Guy and Tom Kalil, of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, along with other government officals.


Presentations exhibited at the science fair ranged from homemade robots and marshmallow cannons to emergency shelters and studies of sheep genetics and cancer treatments. Many of the students are patenting their ideas and pursuing their own companies, as well as winning awards. Student Hayley Hoverter designed an ecologically conscious dissolvable sugar packet to cut down on coffee-bar waste.


The president also got to meet Samantha Garvey, an Intel Science Talent Search 2012 semifinalist. The teen learned of her nomination for her project studying the life of mussels in Long Island while she was temporarily homeless. Students like Garvey, who overcome difficult circumstances to reach for a better life by studying science and engineering, is what will bring America into the future, Obama said. [10 Science Discoveries to Be Thankful for]


President Obama and the Marshmallow Cannon"The young people I met today, the young people behind me, you guys inspire me," Obama said. "It's young people like you that make me so confident that America's best days are still to come."


An expanded list of exhibits presented at the White House Science Fair is available from the Office of Science and Technology Policy.


Education investments

To encourage these science-minded youth, Obama announced today steps that his administration and its partners are taking to educate 100,000 math and science teachers and to train 1 million additional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates over the next decade.


"As an American, I'm proud of you, and as your president, I think we need to make sure your success stories are happening all across our country," he said. "Let's train more teachers, let's get more kids studying these subjects."


To that end, the president has slated an $80 million investment in STEM teachers from the Department of Education into the upcoming budget (which hasn't yet been approved). This would cover programs that allow undergraduates to get both a STEM degree and a teaching certificate (including time spent in the classroom honing their skills). An additional $22 million has been donated by 14 private companies, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Google and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Other partners are also engaging in other ways through the 100Kin10 organization. For example, the National Math and Science Initiative will prepare 4,000 new STEM teachers in UTeach sites, and Teach for America has pledged to recruit 11,000 STEM Corps members to their ranks.



Photo: President Obama reacts as 14-year-old Joey Hudy of Phoenix, Arizona, launches a marshmallow from Hudy's "Extreme Marshmallow Cannon" during a tour of the White House Science Fair. (Saul Loeb/AFP)


You can follow LiveScience staff writer Jennifer Welsh on Twitter @microbelover. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.


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