Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Students Propose Innovative Ideas to Change Graduate Education

    Earlier this summer, the National Science Foundation announced the winners of its Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge, the inaugural student challenge that invited graduate students to submit ideas on how to improve graduate education.

    Graduate education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is at a crossroads. Several recent reports have described a need to change graduate education to better prepare students for modern day challenges and for a range of career options in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

    Through the Innovation in Graduate Education challenge, the NSF asked the graduate students to submit innovative ideas for graduate education that would prepare them for tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges. Ideas focused on students, faculty, departments, institutions, professional societies, and/or Federal agencies. The students were asked to identify an issue in graduate education and to propose a solution.

    NSF received over 500 entries from more than 700 STEM graduate students from across the country. The students represented 155 universities or institutions from 47 states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. 

    The winning entries addressed topics such as transparency in graduate education, science-communication skills training, retention of women in science fields, career awareness and preparation, community engagement, and mentorship. The students’ entries proposed innovative approaches to address these issues, often including grass roots efforts by graduate students themselves, to make changes in the STEM graduate experience.

    The first prize was awarded to PhD candidate Kevin Disotell, of Ohio State University, whose entry—Opening the Doors of STEM Graduate Education: A Collaborative, Web-Based Approach to Unlocking Student Pathways—proposed a comprehensive online portal to provide advisor matching, degree management tools, career development resources, and a publicly accessible forum for sharing student research.

  • Honoring Tech Inclusion Champions of Change at the White House

    Last week, the White House honored 11 heroes as Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion —leaders who have done extraordinary work to connect kids from underrepresented and underserved communities to tech skills and opportunities.

    President Obama has emphasized time and again that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are crucial to America’s economic future, and that equipping students with STEM skills is key to our Nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

    But today in America, there is a large gap between the number of tech jobs available and the number of people who have the proper training and education to fill those jobs.

    The Obama Administration is taking steps to help close this gap and—recognizing that diversity is one of our Nation’s greatest strengths—is fully committed to ensuring that the Nation’s STEM workforce  reflects the full spectrum of unique perspectives, talents, and skills across our country.

    Role-models and community leaders from across the Nation, such as the 11 incredible individuals honored at this week’s Champions of Change event, are absolutely critical to making change happen on the ground. Every day, from coast to coast, they are inspiring kids to see themselves as the builders, coders, programmers, and innovators of the future.

  • We the Geeks: “Robots”

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

    “As president, I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering. And I also want to keep an eye on those robots in case they try anything.”

    - President Barack Obama at the launch of his Educate to Innovate Campaign



    Here at the White House, we’re hard at work keeping our eye on the robots, and as we celebrate one car-sized robotic rover’s 1st year on Mars, we wanted to update you on the state of American robotics and the possibilities for robots to improve life on Earth.

    Join us on Friday, August 9th, at 2:00 pm EDT for a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout on “Robots” – where pioneering scientists will discuss how robots can help transform everything from school classrooms to the factory floor and operating rooms to the way we explore the Solar System.

    You’ll meet American inventors giving robots incredible new capabilities in manufacturing and medicine. You’ll also hear how the Obama Administration’s National Robotics Initiative is accelerating innovations that will expand the horizons of human capacity and potentially add over $100 billion to the American economy in the next decade.

    The Hangout will be moderated by Vijay Kumar, Assistant Director for Robotics and Cyberphysical Systems, and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. John Greenbest selling author and popular video blogger, will join the discussion and curate questions for a panel of these leading experts:

  • Honoring Open Government and Civic Hacking Champions of Change

    Last Tuesday, the White House honored 14 Open Government and Civic Hacking Champions of Change— extraordinary Americans working to improve their communities through technology, innovation, and civic participation.

    As entrepreneurs, innovators, organizers, and community leaders, these "Champions of Change" have made a tremendous positive impact by building high-tech tools to help health workers and disaster-response crews better serve communities; piloting innovative programs to involve traditionally disengaged communities in local governance; using new technologies to enhance government transparency and collaboration; and more.

    The honorees reflect the many kinds of new and diverse opportunities to engage in public service that the digital age has unleashed—as well as the important role of our citizens in making our democracy more transparent, participatory, effective, and efficient.

    Indeed, when presenting his new management agenda earlier this month, President Obama said, "...We the people recognize that this government belongs to us, and it's up to each of us and every one of us to make it work better... We all have a stake in government success—because the government is us."

    Leaders in the public and private sectors have recognized this—and are embracing the opportunity to collaborate with talented individuals who are working to make a positive impact in their communities.

  • Top White House Officials Convene All-Star Female Students for Candid Talk on Women in STEM

    Google Science Fair Girls 2013

    On July 24, 2013, five young women who are past winners or current finalists of the Google Science Fair met with Senior Obama Administration Officials to discuss issues related to girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). From left to right: Brittany Wenger, Valerie Ding, Naomi Shah, Lizzie Zhao, and Lauren Hodge. (Photo by Karrie Pitzer)

    Today, at a private meeting in the West Wing of the White House, US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, Deputy US Chief Technology Officer Jen Pahlka, and other senior Obama Administration officials specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), met with five inspiring young women to discuss academic and career pathways in STEM—and barriers to the involvement of girls in those fields. The students were past winners and current finalists of the annual Google Science Fair—an online science competition open to high-school-aged students that solicits “ideas that will change the world.” 

    Since the earliest days of his Administration, President Obama has made it a top priority to provide students with the skills they need to excel in the well-paying and highly rewarding STEM fields, with a particular focus on women and girls. He understands that increasing the number of women engaged in STEM is essential to our Nation’s ability to out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate future competitors.

    The young participants in today’s meeting embody that potential. At the meeting, the students each described their breakthrough science projects, their career aspirations, and shared their views on what barriers could be overcome to help further increase the participation of girls in STEM studies.

  • We the Geeks Wrap Up: “Intelligence is our real Superpower”

    Last week, as Comi-Con-induced excitement permeated the geek community, the White House hosted another installment of its “We the Geeks” Google Hangout series, this time on “The Stuff Superheroes Are Made Of.” The Hangout featured top scientists and engineers working to develop materials and technologies that can enable real-life “superpowers” such as invisibility and super strength. Some of the participants even demoed their wares live on the air.