Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Students Speak: I won the Google Science Fair


    From left to right, Google Science Fair 2013 Winners: Viney Kumar (14, Australia), Ann Makosinski (15, Canada), Elif Bilgin (16, Turkey), and Eric Chen (17, USA). (Photo by Andrew Federman)

    In September, after beating out thousands of contestants from around the globe, Eric Chen, Ann Makosinski, Viney Kumar, and Elif Bilgin were triumphantly presented large, LEGO-made trophies as winners of the 2013 Google Science Fair. Sponsored by Google, LEGO, the Geneva-based European research organization CERN, National Geographic, and Scientific American, the Google Science Fair gives young scientists a platform without borders to showcase their ideas and work. A panel of international judges — including astronauts, professors, journalists, and more — selected winners in three age categories, while the Internet community picked a Voters’ Choice Award winner. I recently asked the four winners about their experience at the Fair, plans for the future, and importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

  • We the Geeks: Student Startups

    Ed. note: This event has concluded. Watch the full hangout below.

    “Let us come together and help aspiring entrepreneurs take a chance on themselves and their visions for a brighter future.” President Obama on National Entrepreneurship Month, November 2013

    For generations, Americans have turned innovative ideas into small businesses, large companies, and entire industries that have revolutionized the economy, created millions of jobs, and transformed life as we know it—here at home and around the globe. That entrepreneurial spirit is the foundation of America’s story and is critical to ensuring future successes for generations to come. We know from experience that potentially game-changing innovative ideas are born in all corners of the Nation—in every state and region, at laboratory benches and on factory floors, in boardrooms and city halls, at community meetings, in classrooms, and on college campuses.

    That’s why, on November 22, which the President has designated National Entrepreneurs’ Day, we’re celebrating the extraordinary stories of young entrepreneurs—students who, along with all the usual demands of pursuing a high school, college, or a graduate degree, are building companies today that are spreading homegrown ideas all over the world. Two proven entrepreneurs featured on the popular TV show Shark Tank will join these student innovators to share lessons from their own entrepreneurial journeys.

    Join us this Friday November 22, at 2:00 pm EST for a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout, called “Student Startups” – where leading student entrepreneurs and business moguls will talk about how anyone can cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship in his or her own community. 

  • Guest Blog: How I Transitioned to a High-Tech Job After 20 Years in the Military

    William Towery is a retired United States Army Chief Warrant Officer Three who received Fiber Optics Installer/Technician certifications and other certifications through the Warriors 4 Wireless pilot program. These certifications provided him with the necessary licenses for placement in a new position at Dynis Tower Solutions, where he started as Wireless Communication Tower Technician in March, 2013.

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    Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer William Towery scales a 420-foot wireless tower while on the job in June, 2013. (Photo by William Towery)

    Today at the White House, the new Warriors 4 Wireless (W4W) initiative was launched. The program works to help veterans like me translate skills and knowledge gained in the military into career opportunities in the wireless telecommunication industry.

    Last December, while on assignment in Fort Gordon, Georgia, I received an email invitation and phone call to interview with Warriors 4 Wireless (W4W) to be a part of their inaugural pilot-program class for training and job placement at Dynis Tower Solutions (DTS).  

    For the longest time I was trying to decide what career path options I had—considering all I knew for 20 years involved flying Blackhawk helicopters for the United States Army. I was very nervous at the thought of retirement from my military career due to a head and neck injury that I suffered during a tour in Iraq. I accepted the W4W invitation and attended the interview, though I had little to no experience in telecommunications.

    The W4W team provided both classroom and on-the-job training, which was a great relief because I wanted to start work immediately after retirement. I was of course ecstatic to accept their invitation to work and be given the opportunity to start a second career.

  • President Obama Welcomes America’s Nine New Nobel Laureates to the White House

    OSTP Nobel Laureates 2013 1

    President Barack Obama talks with 2013 American Nobel Laureates and their spouses in the Oval Office, Nov. 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today in the Oval Office, President Obama met with nine of the Nation’s foremost innovators, creative thinkers, and builders of the future—the American recipients of 2013 Nobel Prizes in natural sciences and economics. The President was joined in the meeting by OSTP Director John P. Holdren, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Jason Furman, Ambassador Björn Lyrvall of Sweden, Ambassador Kåre Aas of Norway; and a number of the Nobel Laureates’ family members.

    The nine newly minted laureates embody the spirit of ingenuity and discovery that have long made America great—and they exemplify the tremendous advancements that can be achieved when research, skill, and study in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math are applied to address real-world challenges. The American prize-winners have illuminated scientists’ understanding of how cells operate in the brain; enabled the simulation and modeling of complex sub-atomic-scale chemical reactions; and reshaped the way economists understand market prices and “bubbles.”

  • Equipping the Next Generation of Biomedical Innovators and Entrepreneurs

    This past September, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced  “Broadening Experience in Scientific Training” (BEST)—a $3.7 million awards program designed to help universities prepare graduate students and research fellows in the field of biomedical research for 21st century jobs, including those outside of the traditional academic tenure-track.

    BEST awards focus on enabling universities to create innovative pilot programs that increase student and trainee exposure to an array of research-related career options—including through coursework, workshops, and hands-on training experiences. This type of supplemental training is especially important in the biomedical sciences—where an estimated 77% of PhD students ultimately pursue careers outside of academia, such as in industry or government.

    The first set of ten BEST awards will provide about $250,000 per year, over five years, to support collaborative efforts between university departments and external partners that enrich graduate education and research experiences.

    The 2013 winners are already working to implement innovative programs that provide communications skills training; promote faculty and peer mentorship; guide career planning; provide industrial externship opportunities; and support student entrepreneurial leadership.  

    BEST awardees are also working to expose program participants to entrepreneurial thinking and provide training experiences for faculty mentors.

    For instance, a BEST-awarded program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University focuses on equipping faculty mentors to be effective “cheerleaders” for student participants in career-training programs—and on providing incentives to faculty members who are effective mentors.

  • Building a 21st Century Detroit

    Detroit Tech Team

    (Tech Team in front of Detroit City Hall: Brian Forde, Allen Square Jr., Gail Roper, John Tolva, Beth Niblock, Nigel Jacob, and Don Graves.)

    Last night, a team of top municipal-government technology officials from across the nation led by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) landed in Detroit to begin two days of work as a partner to support Detroit’s vision for economic revitalization.
    The officials participating in this “Tech Team” are:
    Nigel Jacob, Co-founder of the Office of New Urban Mechanics in the City of Boston, MA
    John Tolva, former Chief Technology Officer of the City of Chicago, IL
    Beth Niblock, Chief Information Officer of City of Louisville, KY
    Allen Square Jr., Chief Information Officer of the City of New Orleans, LA
    Gail Roper, Chief Information and Community Relations Officer for the City of Raleigh, NC
    These five individuals have led innovative efforts in Boston, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans, and Raleigh that have created significant costs-savings for the local government and enabled the development of customer-facing tools that make government services easier to access. 
    For more information on the Tech Team, view a fact sheet here.
    Over the next two days, we will be facilitating meetings in Detroit with the Tech Team and city officials and local private-sector, non-profit, and civic innovators to collaborate and identify opportunities to leverage technology to help contribute to economic growth and dramatically improve services for city residents in high-impact sectors—in ways that are tailored to the needs of people in Detroit.  
    Building on work underway in Detroit, together, the Tech Team and the City will brainstorm solutions in several broad issue areas, including:
    Enabling Online Permitting: Identify ways for the city to offer the ability for local residents to apply and pay for business, safety, building, and other permits online;
    Evaluating IT Infrastructure:  Analyze existing IT infrastructure and software to identify opportunities for consolidation and cost savings in areas including software applications, data centers, and servers;
    Streamlining Payroll Systems: Review city payroll processes and identify opportunities to digitize manual processes and reduce costs and potential for errors;
    Opening Government Data: Identify opportunities to leverage new software to enable open government data to fuel entrepreneurs and innovation while ensuring privacy and security; and
    Creating a 311 System:  Recommend best practices for implementing a 311 system and decreasing non-emergency related service requests to emergency lines such as 911.