State of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

State of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math


Audience: Good morning. Female Speaker: Okay,
I know it’s this kind of a snowy day, but we’re going
to have to do a little better than that. Good morning, everyone. Audience: Good morning. Female Speaker:
Thank you. All right. Well, welcome to the White
House, first and foremost. Thank you for braving the
cold and the snow that we have here in Washington,
D.C. We are sorry that a couple of classes weren’t
able to join us in person today because of snow
days, but I’m sure they’d much rather be here, and
they’ll be watching today on our live stream. This will be
live-streamed today at whitehouse.gov/live,
and we’re also taking questions on Twitter. Our hashtag today is
#sostem, as in “State of Science,
Technology, Engineering, and Math.” So, we’re excited
about that. So, that you for coming to
the White House today, and we are just thrilled. This is our favorite event
every year to take your tough questions on
the state of science, technology,
engineering, and math. We’re joined, today, by
the President’s Science Adviser, Director of the
Office of Science and Technology Policy,
Dr. John Holdren. We’re also going to be
joined today by our Chief Technology
Officer, Todd Park. And we are joined by
special guests from the First Lady’s State Of The
Union Address box from last night, other
exceptional administration officials, and our 2013
NASA candidate class. We are just so thrilled
to have them as well. And so, without further
ado, I’d like to turn it over to the
President’s Science Adviser, Director of the Office of
Science and Technology Policy, Dr. John Holdren. [applause] John Holdren: Well, thank you, Bess [phonetic sp]. And thanks to all of
you for being here. And welcome to
the White House. As I think all of you
know, the President made a rather major speech last
night, The State Of The Union Address. And I hope that many of
you at least had a chance to watch, not least
because he talked about the importance of science,
technology, engineering, and math; about the
importance of STEM education; about the
importance of basic research to the
future of our country. The Constitution itself
says that the president gives every year an
address to congress describing the state of
our nation, the state of the union. It doesn’t say in the
Constitution exactly how the President is
supposed to convey that information, but it’s
always been done, in fact, in the form of
a major speech. The history of this is
pretty complicated and interesting. George Washington gave his State Of The Union as a speech. Calvin Coolidge did it. Harry Truman did it. He was the first
to do it on TV. Probably a very few people
in this room are old enough to have even
remembered who Harry Truman is, but I hope you studied the history of U.S. presidents in school. President Obama broke new
ground in this — in this domain because his
speeches, including last night’s, have
been accompanied by real-time info-graphics, Facebook
posts, and tweets. And again, I hope some of
you, at least, benefited from those technological twists on the State Of The Union Address. And it’s appropriate to
what we’re here for today, because I can tell you, as
President Obama’s Science Adviser, that nobody
appreciates more than this president how and
why science, technology, engineering, and math
matter for the future of our country, and how STEM
education matters for the future of our country. If you listen to the
speech last night, you heard him say quite a
bit about that — the importance of the STEM
subjects, as we call them. He talked about the
importance of basic research, reminding us
that that’s a fundamental responsibility of
government to make investments in basic
research which provide the seed corn on which
all future advances in science, technology,
engineering will be based. And because basic research
is a highly uncertain proposition — you’re
investigating questions whose answers you don’t
know in advance — there’s a considerable chance
that the research will not succeed. If it does succeed, the
economic returns are likely to be far
down the road. And you can’t tell
in advance who, in particular, is going to
get those returns, whether they’ll come to the
researchers who developed the original idea, or
whether they’ll come to somebody else. For all of those reasons,
the private sector is never going to fund enough
basic research to meet the needs of society. The government
has to do it. We have been doing it. And we intend to
continue to maintain that leadership in federal
government support for this research, which is so
important as the seed corn for our future advances. The President mentioned
last night some of the possibilities that will
flow from continuing investments in fundamental
research: better understanding of how the
brain works and all the benefits that can flow
from that; new materials that are, as he noted,
as thin as paper but as strong as steel; new
drugs to fight bacteria that are getting better at
resisting conventional antibiotics; new ways
of getting energy from sunlight and other
renewable resources so we can stop adding harmful
carbon pollution to our atmosphere — the
pollution that is changing the climate of the globe. The president also talked
last night about education and about
improving STEM education in middle- and high-schools;
about strengthening STEM education and learning in
college; and about getting more students like you interested in STEM fields and prepared for study and
careers in cutting-edge areas like neuroscience,
engineering, materials science,
nanotechnology, cybersecurity. And these are jobs, by
the way, that tend to pay better than other jobs. And they’re jobs
where women don’t find themselves earning less
than men in the way they do in many other kinds of
jobs, a point I want to emphasize for all the
young women in the audience today. And the President talked
about that last night as well. Most important, these are
interesting jobs — jobs that stretch the
boundaries of what we know and what we can do; where
you get paid to explore, to discover, to build
and create day after day. One day, one of you
might end up advising a president of the United
States, who knows? So, my message to you
today is that the state of STEM in our
country is strong. And we’re counting on you
— all of you, and young people like you all across
the country — to keep it strong and to make
it even stronger. And so, toward that
end, I’m going to be introducing you this
morning to some science and technology superstars
who are real-life examples of how far a solid STEM
education can take you. A few of them, you might
even recognize from their TV appearance last night in the First Lady’s box during the President’s State Of The Union Address. I hope that they’ll
inspire you to keep studying science,
engineering, and math, and that they’ll convince
you to keep asking tough questions, keep thinking
about what you could invent or discover that
would make the world a better place. And with that, I’m going
to ask our panelists to come out. Where are our panelists? We need Joey Hury and
Tyrone Davis and Cristin Dorgelo and Gill Pratt. And what I’m going to ask
them to do in the order they appear to my left is
to just say a few words about who they are
and what they do. And after that, we will
turn the floor over to you to raise your hands
and ask them and me any question you like. So, Joey, would you start? Joey Hudy:
Hi, I’m Joe Hudy. I’m a “Maker”
and an engineer. Tyrone Davis: Hi,
I’m Tyrone Davis. I currently attend law
school at Elon University School of Law. I have previous experience
in trying to help universities and small
towns reduce their energy consumption. Cristin Dorgelo:
Morning, everybody. I’m Cristin Dorgelo. I work here at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. And I work on two things. One is grand challenges,
which are audacious yet achievable goals that can
help us reach 21st century moonshots and change our
future through science and technology; and also open
innovation and incentive prizes, which is
how we are asking citizens like you to help us solve
problems on challenge.gov. Gill Pratt: Hi there. I’m Gill Pratt. I work at DARPA, which is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. We’re the agency that
brought you the internet, amongst other
really cool things. And right now, I work on
robotics, which I think is pretty exciting
to a lot of young people — and, in particular, something
called the DARPA robotics challenge. And I also work on things
called neuromorphic computers, which sounds
very fancy, but it’s really trying to build
computers that work in ways that are similar
to how our brains work. John Holdren: Thanks. The one repair I
want to make to those introductions is that Joey
didn’t say very much about what he has done, other
than that he’s a “Maker.” And Joey, I wish you’d
say just a little bit more about how you came to be here, including what you made in 2012
to show to the President at the White House Science Fair. Joey Hudy: All right. Well, in 2012, I built a
marshmallow canon, which is technical term of it
is a pneumatic canon. And I showed it off at the
White House Science Fair. And I got to shoot it
off with President Obama. And from then on — going
on, I’ve gotten a couple internships. And I’m now
interning with Intel. And then, I’ve — from
that, I’m now — I got to be in Michelle
Obama’s box. John Holdren: Terrific. He also — after he had
launched that marshmallow across the East Room with
the President, he handed the President a card
with his credo, “Don’t be bored. Make something.” President has been making
a lot of things, and he’s never bored, I
can assure you. [laughter] With that,
let’s open it up to questions from
the audience. If you’d like to ask a
question to any member of the panel, please raise
your hand, stand up, introduce yourself,
and fire away. And tell us which panelist
you’d like to answer your question. Okay, right here. Sam Alterman: This is
sort of a question for — John Holdren: We have
a microphone for you. [laughter] Sam
Alterman: This is sort of a question for all — John Holdren: Introduce yourself, please. Sam Alterman:
Oh, sorry. I’m Sam Alterman
[phonetic sp]. I’m a senior at BCC
High School in Bethesda, Maryland, and I’m
also a former intern at the University of California
Santa Cruz in their genetics department. And there have been
several articles published lately saying, “Should we
drop science from STEM?” And I — but I noticed
that, of the panelists, most of them are engineers
or technology people and not scientists. And do you think that
maybe we should sort of see science as something
separate from technology, engineering,
and mathematics? Or are they inseparable? And what do you think
basic scientific research could bring to the
future of the country? John Holdren: Well, I
guess that’s one that I should take on first, and
then see if anybody wants to add anything. I think science,
technology, engineering, and math are
all inseparable. STEM is a unit. Anybody who’s going to be
a good engineer or a good technologist has to
know a lot of science. And scientist who’s really
going to be effective at improving the human
condition should be thinking at least some
of the time about the potential application of
the science that she or he is doing. All scientists,
technologists, and engineers need the
strongest math background they can possibly get. And so, I think leaving
out any part of that combination would
be a mistake. Indeed, many of the most
exciting things going on in science, technology,
engineering, and math are going on precisely at the
boundaries of what have traditionally been
considered the content of these different fields. With engineers
and scientists and mathematicians and
technologists all working together to figure out how
to combine their insights into advance that are
going to improve our economic performance with
advanced manufacturing; with new technologies and
new materials; going to improve our
environment; strengthen our national
security; improve public health. The ways in which the STEM
fields are contributing to improving human well-being
could take the rest of the day and many days to
follow just to describe. Gill Pratt: Let
me take that up, too. So, first, let me tell you
a little bit what DARPA is structured like. We have a number
of offices. And they range, actually,
from a science office — that’s the one that I’m
in, the Defense Sciences Office — to technology
offices, to systems offices, and then,
finally, to what we call transition
offices, where we try to take the engineered things that we
come up with and figure out how they’re going
to actually go into real systems in the real world. And so, even within our
one building, we see the important synergy and
the symbiosis between things all the way from math to,
finally, well, what’s the business model to
make this thing work? And so, that’s
one example. I’ll give a second one,
which is in my own work. And so, I talked to you
guys a little bit about neuromorphic computers —
building a computer that works a little bit like
the way that our brain works. The problem is we don’t
know how our brain works. And how are we going
to figure that out? Well, that’s through
neuroscience. And so, my own degree when
I was at MIT is both in electrical
engineering and also in neurophysiology. And so, that’s really a
key things to be able to combine those things at
the — at the border, like John says, to be able to
see those synergies and actually make an impact. So, I very much agree that
we have to have all these things together. John Holdren: Good. Let’s get
another question. Down here. Jake Duffels: Earlier
you said, “interesting jobs”. Can you define
that, please? [laughter] I’m Jake
Duffels [phonetic sp], by the way. John Holdren:
Thank you. The first thing I say when
people ask me what my job is like — I say, “First
of all, it’s never boring.” And that’s the first
ingredient of an interesting job — a job
that never bores you; a job that makes you happy
to get up in the morning and go to work rather than
saying, “Oh, heavens, I have to get
through another workday.” The second thing, I think,
that makes an interesting job is a job that matters
— a job that you can feel proud of, because
what you’re doing is improving the lives of people
somewhere, somehow, in some way. The third thing that makes
an interesting job is a job that draws on the
skills and the talents that you, personally, have
developed, so you really are using what you’ve got
to the best advantage. That would be a
quick description. But again, others may
want to add something. Cristin Dorgelo: You
know, I’ll jump in on that one. I have the pleasure and
honor when I work on these competitions that I
mentioned — these prizes — to get to hang
out with people who I think have amazingly
interesting jobs. In fact, people accuse me
of having one, and I think they’re right. I get teased for my title
here at the White House as the
Assistant Director for Grand Challenges. I get asked whether I
should have a sword with that job. But the thing that I get
to observe is that, you know, these scientists and
these technologists — the engineers who are
building solutions in the competitions I get to run
— they love their job for a couple of reasons. And some of them
include what Dr. Holdren mentioned. One of them, though, is
that they get to go to summer camp for
engineers as adults. So, they join
these prizes. They’re competing to
build the most cool tools. So, for example, I worked
on a competition for oil cleanup technology. Do you guys remember Gulf
oil spill that happened a few years back? So, these engineers
came together. And they came to this
testing facility. And they deployed this
amazing, groundbreaking set of oil cleanup
technologies — things that had never seen
oil and water before. And they actually ended
up beating the industry’s previous best
performance by four times in that one summer in a really
short period of time. And these guys had
this huge grin. And the teams and families
that entered, I guarantee, have very interesting
jobs, so summer camp for engineers. John Holdren: Great,
let’s take another question. Yes. Right down here. Male Speaker:
What kind of — John Holdren: Her
comes a microphone. And introduce
yourself, please. Male Speaker: My name
is Taron [phonetic sp]. And what types of
robots do you make? Gill Pratt: Hi, Taron. So, DARPA doesn’t
actually make anything. What we do is we inspire
and we fund other folks to make stuff. So, I’ll tell you in the
DARPA Robotics Challenge what kind of
robots we made. And these are robots
for disaster response. So, you may remember a
few years ago, I think you were a little
younger, there was a think called the Fukushima disaster. And what happened there
was a earthquake — a very large one — struck off
the coast of Japan, and there was a tidal wave. And the water went all the
way into a nuclear power plant. And it cut off all the
power in that plant. And that’s actually a very
bad thing for a nuclear reactor, because
it gets too hot. It needs to be
cooled down. And so, they started by
sending people in to try to open some valves
to vent those reactors because the pressure
was getting to big. And it turned out that the
radiation in that area was too large. People had to turn back. And so, because they
couldn’t open those valves, they actually
had three big explosions, which was a very big
catastrophe from an environmental
point of view. So, we started a project
to build robots that could respond to disasters
like that that people could operate from a distance
from wherever the bad environment was. And that’s really what
we’re working on the most now. And recently, we had one
of the challenges that Cristin was talking about. And we had a second event down in Florida last month. And teams composed of
college students for the most part, but also
some companies, came and competed to see who
could build the best robot that could respond to these
kinds of disasters. So, I hope that
answers your question. John Holdren: Good. Let’s have another one. Yes, down here
in the front row. Angela Jory: Hi, I’m
Angela Jory [phonetic sp], and I’m the Editor In
Chief of Silver Chips Online, Montgomery
Blair High School’s nationally-recognized
newspaper. And my question to all
of you is: How can STEM students — what advice
do you have for young STEM students? And how do you think we
can get more involved in the type of work
that you’re doing? Cristin Dorgelo: Tyrone
and Joey, you guys want to answer that? Joey Hudy: I would say
for STEM students that if you have an idea, don’t
hesitate to start building it. Build it straight away. There’s resources
out there. There’s great
communities out there. So, if you have an
idea, start building it. Tyrone Davis: And I
would just add to that, if you set goals for yourself
and make a plan to achieve those goals, that
will go a long way in your development as a student. Gill Pratt: Maybe I’ll
add one more thing, which we practice at our agency,
no matter how grown up all the people are
that work for us. Don’t be afraid
to fail, okay? Because failure and
learning what you don’t understand, through
trying and then failing is actually an integral part
of doing work in science, technology,
engineering, and math. The important thing is
that when you do fail — and it happens to all of
us — to the best of us — you try again, and again,
and again, and again until that light bulb finally
goes on and you understand how to do something. John Holdren: Good. Yes. Chandler Hawkins: I’m
Chandler Hawkins [phonetic sp]. I go to eighth — I’m in
eighth grade and I go to Our Lady Of
Lourdes School. My question is: What are
you guys looking forward to in the future of STEM? John Holdren: I think
we ought to have our young panelists take that first. Tyrone, you want
to talk about that? Tyrone Davis: Sure. I would say that I’m
looking forward to seeing what innovative technology
is developed in the future to help solve some
of the environmental issues that we face today. In particular, issues
related to climate change. You know, how can we
develop technology to help our manufacturing plants
and other power- or energy-producing plants? How can we develop
technology and systems to help those places reduce
the amount of carbon emissions that they
put into the air? And I’m really looking
forward to that in the future. John Holdren: Joey? Joey Hudy: I would say
I’m looking forward to — for more of STEM going
into more of the schools and getting it more spread
out to larger areas of schools. And — yeah. Cristin Dorgelo:
I’ll take one on there, Dr. Holdren, which is —
you know, I get to work in a really optimistic job. When we think about grand
challenges, we think about what STEM could
actually help us solve. And so, we get to dream
big about how science and technology can actually
help us solve these big problems like you
were describing. And so, if you come to
my office one day, you’re going to see that I have
a white board covered in crazy ideas. It includes things like
superpowers and the ability to have
super-strong material and scale walls and all the
things we read in comic books. It includes the robots that Gill has been working on. But also things like using
science and technology to cure diseases
of the brain. So, the President’s
Brain Initiative that was launched last year. And things like solar as
cheap as coal, so we have a future of clean
energy renewables like you were talking about. So, I really believe that
STEM is going to be the answer to collaboration in
this society, and also to solving some really
big challenges we face. So, I’m pretty
optimistic that way. John Holdren: I want to
add one thing, too, that I’ve been looking forward
to all my life and enjoying all my life and
I continue to look forward to it — and that’s all
that we are learning about space, about our solar
system, about our universe through our space program,
including the human exploration part — and
you’ll hear more about that in a later
panel this morning. The space telescopes; the
extraordinary images that we’re getting back from
the Hubble and our other space telescopes; the
extraordinary search for other habitable planets. I’m almost 70 years old,
and I wish I could live another 70 years to find
out all the things that we are going to learn by
looking outward and exploring outward. We’re going to
visit asteroids. We’re ultimately going to
send human beings to Mars. We’re going to keep
exploring, moving outward, and learning more. This is an immensely
exciting adventure. At the same time, we’re
going to be learning more about our old planet
— our own planet. We’re going to be
looking inward. We’re going to be
exploring the oceans, which are still largely
unexplored territory on this planet. And we need to understand
it better as well. Let’s have another
one from this side. I need to go back
a little further. Let’s go back here. Female Speaker: Hi, I’m
a teacher at Montgomery Blair High School. I’m the adviser to the Silver Chips Online Newspaper. I was recently in China
and got to see the Terokkar —
Terracotta Warriors. And they were — when they
were explaining excavating the soldiers, they said,
“We are going to save some of these for
future generations. Our technology
isn’t there yet.” I was wondering if there’s
anything that you guys are thinking about saving for
future generations that we see now, but we know we
don’t want to touch for the future. Thank you. Cristin Dorgelo:
Well, I’ll share one. You know, there’s a
growing — Dr. Holdren was talking about the
future of space. And there’s a growing
commercial space industry that’s exploring space. And we actually have
on the moon a number of historic things:
footprints, pieces of equipment. And there’s an entire team
at NASA that thinks about lunar science and how to
actually protect those artifacts if we go back to
the moon and explore the moon commercially
or otherwise. John Holdren: Another
thing I think we have to think about preserving
is biodiversity on this planet — the diversity of
living things, which can be thought of as a
unique library full of books, many of which we haven’t
even learned to read. And we need to be
sure to hang onto that biodiversity so that we
can learn its secrets in the future. This is an enormously
important challenge since we make many demands on
the ecosystems of the planet; demands for
food and fiber and fuel; demands on land for
habitation and industry; demands on water for human
use, for agriculture, and so on. But in the midst of all
those demands, we have to allow space for
the preservation of biodiversity so that
future generations can read, in ways we can not
yet read, the secrets that are contained
in all that diversity. Let’s have another
one on this side. Yes. Peg Pisagarus: Hi, I’m
Peg Pisagarus [phonetic sp] from the Governor’s
School at Innovation Park in Manassas, Virginia. And just following up
about the commercial space sector, what do you see as
their role in the future of space
exploration, specifically manned space exploration? John Holdren: Well,
NASA has said — and the President has said —
that we can and should turn over a larger and larger
part of some of our missions — particularly,
initially, carrying cargo and crew to lower-earth
orbit where the International Space
Station resides — to the private sector. They have the
capability to do it. In competition, they have
the ability to do it less expensively but
still safely. And, of course, NASA will
still oversee and ensure the safety of all
commercial crew operations as these emerge over time. I, personally, have been
enormously impressed by the accomplished of the —
of the commercial sector. I have visited the SpaceX
manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California,
and seen seven different dragon capsules in various
stages of assembly. I’ve seen there a
3D-printer that works in titanium, producing rocket
motor parts so complex in their geometry that they
could never be machined. I think there is a huge
future in the private space industry. And, at the same time,
we will continue to be relying on NASA for the
cutting-edge science and technology, at which NASA
excels and has unique capabilities for reaching
farther, seeing more. But it’s increasingly
going to be a partnership between the federal
government and the private sector. Over here. Zach Raj: I’m Zach
Raj [phonetic sp]. I go to — I’m a
seven-grader at Alice Young Middle School. And how can robotics
provide our basic needs for the future? Gill Pratt:
Hey there, Zach. I think that, first
of all, an excellent question. And I always like to kind
of reduce it to the reason that I started in the
robotics field to begin with, which was I
was a little kid. And I was very messy. And my mom used to tell me
to clean my room all the time. And I started to imagine,
“Well, you know, how could I do this without
actually doing it?” [laughs] And so, you know,
in my head popped up this dream. What if a robot could
clean my room for me? And then I could spend my
time doing other stuff, which would probably
make my room more messy. But the robot would
take care of it. So, it turns out that,
as I grew up, that the robotics field actually
had the same idea. And robots are really
good for dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks. So, I spoke a little bit
before about dangerous tasks like
disaster response. But they’re really, really
good at things that are very dull — that, really,
human beings shouldn’t be doing — and also things
that are dirty, that you really don’t want to do. And so, you think about
those dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks, and I
think that’s the sort of best answer to
your question. John Holdren: Okay. Let’s have another
one from this side. Yes. Grace Clark: I’m Grace
Clark [phonetic sp] from Time For Kids. And Mr. Pratt, do the
robots get to know their operators and anticipate
what they are doing? Can they develop an
abbreviated form of communication? Gill Pratt: Those
are excellent questions. So, our robots look kind
of almost like human beings when you look
at them on the outside. So, physically, they look
incredibly impressive, just like robots in
science fiction movies and things like that. But it turns out that
inside of their little computers that
they have to do their thinking, they’re actually
very, very simple. They have intelligence
inside of them that’s not more sophisticated
than an ant, okay? Really, really,
dumb kind of things. And so, it’s true that
our robots, as we program them, are trying to
operate for a few seconds when the communication
link between the operator and the robot
is not so good. And we’re working very
hard on that, because we know in real
disasters the communications is often really spotty like a
really bad cell-phone call — you know, how they
drop out and come back. But in general, you have
to remember that the human brain is an
extraordinary thing. And even though the robots
kind of look like they can do thinking of their
own, they actually can’t. They rely on human
being to do that part. So, I think to answer your
question, it’s actually the partnership
between the operator and the robot that makes them
very effective. Do the robots actually
know the operator? Only a tiny, tiny,
tiny little bit. John Holdren: Okay. I’m going to ask for some
questions to be directed to our young people up
here, because we old folks are giving
too many of the answers. So, who’s got a question
for the young people? Yes, in the
fourth row there. Jasmine Perrier: M
name is Jasmine Perrier [phonetic sp], and I go to
Raymond Education Campus. And my question
is for Joey. What gave you the idea to
make a marshmallow cannon, and why did you make it? Joey Hudy: Oh, I was
actually bored in school in the days. [laughter] Imagine that. And I had a — my pencil
just ran out of lead. And so, I had an
empty Gatorade bottle. So, I stuck the
two together. And I squeezed the bottle. And the guts of the pencil
went flying across the room. I got a little bit
in trouble for that. But that led me
to want to build a pressurized-version of
that and a higher-powered version of that. So, that’s how
that came about. Cristin Dorgelo:
[laughs] John Holdren: Great. Another question directed
to the young people. Yes, in the
second row there. Jake Duffels: Hi. I’m Jake Duffels from
Hardy Middle School. And I was just wondering:
Is there anything when you were littler — like,
say, Legos or something — that led you to do more
inventions like you just said — finding
how to build a pressurized marshmallow launcher? Was there anything else? And you, too, Mr. Davis. Joey Hudy: When I was
littler, there was two things I remember most. Probably Legos, as you
mentioned, I played with a lot. And then, also, there was
this one — I remember buying this one little
science encyclopedia that I spent all my time
reading and trying to understand what the heck
they were talking about in the book. Tyrone Davis: And I
played a lot with Legos, as well — used to try to
build miniature cities and things like that. And I also used to read
encyclopedias to learn more about animals. And always had an
interest in science. So, I was always trying
to find out a way that I could find more
information about something that existed in
the world or the universe. John Holdren: Good. Let’s have another. Let’s see. I’ve not gotten anybody
far in the back. Yes, right here. Right in the front. Trevor Gel: My name is
Trevor Gel [phonetic sp], and I’m for
National Geographic. And my question is: What
do you think the future of green energy is? John Holdren: [laughs]
I think the future of green energy is huge. As the President pointed
out last night, we need to accelerate the transition
to cleaner energy forms for many reasons: to
reduce impacts of energy production and use on
human health; but also, and perhaps most
challenging, to reduce the impacts of energy
production and use on the worlds climate. That’s really what we
mean by “green energy” — energy that we can
mobilize and use while minimizing
environmental impacts, including those on climate. We’ve been doing
pretty well. In this country, the
amount of electricity we generate from wind has
gone up by two and a half times since 2008. The amount of electricity
we generate from solar energy has gone up
five-fold since 2008. We’ve greatly increased
our use of natural gas, which is the cleanest of
the fossil fuels available to us. And it is the President’s
intention — this administrations intention
— to continue to push on the cleaner energy
sources, both for our own benefit, but for the
benefit of the planet and the to show
leadership in helping other nations
understand that a transition to green energy is in the whole
world’s interest. Tyrone Davis: And I
would just like to add to that the — I think
the future of green energy is huge as well because, as
a society, we are becoming more aware of
some of the consequences that are associated with using more
dirtier types of energy. And so, I think, a certain
awareness allows us to develop more technologies
and to do more research to see how we can develop
more cleaner forms of energy. John Holdren: Bess,
according to my schedule, this panel is supposed
to end at 10:45. Is that still right? Female Speaker: You’ve
got time for — you’ve got time for about two
more questions. John Holdren:
Two more questions. Female Speaker: So,
we’ll take one in the audience, and then we’ll
take one from Twitter. John Holdren:
[laughter] Okay. Right here. Jayla Graham: Hello,
my name is Jayla Graham [phonetic sp] from
Hardy Middle School. I’m in eighth grade. And I have a question
for Mr. Pratt. Would the design of a
robot increase job loss, which is what the
President wants to decrease? Gill Pratt: Absolutely
great question. And one that we need
to think deeply about, because I think it’s
a very valid concern. The problem of technology
— let me talk about technology first, and then
I’ll talk about robotics in particular. The problem with
technology and jobs is one that has been
worried about for many, many years. And it’s a very
good question. Without a doubt,
technology causes us to be more productive because
a person can do more than they could just by
their own without the technology. And so, one way to look
at it is to say, “Well, if the amount of work —
the amount of stuff that we need to make, for
instance, stays the same, we’re going to need fewer
people to make that stuff. And so, we’re going
to lose jobs.” But there is actually
a different thing that happens. What happens is the cost
of those things that are being made goes down. And people end up
getting other jobs. And it turns out that
there’s more work to be done doing things often
that are actually much more exciting as jobs
than they were before. Farming is a really
great example. We used to employ many,
many people — a large fraction of the population
— to do farming. And I don’t know if any of
you have ever worked on a farm. It’s incredibly hard work. You’re up at the
crack of dawn. You’re breaking your
back the whole day long. And then, you go to sleep
very late at night every single day, the whole year
round, year after year after year. Well, the tractor was
a pretty good idea. And the tractor frees
people up to do other things that, to be honest,
are more interesting than the dull and the dirty and
the dangerous tasks that they were doing before
the technology came. And so, we’ve seen this
same kind of thing happen over and over
again in history. And I believe, in the
robotics field, a large portion of the
productivity gains that we’re seeing are going
to be compensated for by finding other jobs for
people that are more dignified, that are more
interesting, that are actually not as hard. And the great result of
all this, I think, is that we’re going to live much
better lives and actually work less. And that’s a very
good thing to do. John Holdren: So, Bess,
you said we have one from Twitter. Female Speaker: We
actually — we actually have two from
Twitter that are both for our young guests. The first is for
Tyrone: “Read your bio. How did you cut 200 tons
of carbon emissions?” And the second one is for
Joey: “Did you keep the marshmallow?” [laughter] Tyrone
Davis: Well, I’ll say this. I did my work at Elizabeth
City State University. And the goal of my work
there was to develop a plan for the university to become more energy-efficient. And that included things
like changing their lighting systems to
more efficient lighting systems; reducing the
amount of physical computer servers that they
had — I recommended that they go to a virtualized
service system. So, that way, you could
save energy by cutting the amount of cool air you had
to pump into the server room. And things like that
would cut down the cost of electricity. And I networked with a
lot of engineers that had experience in some of
these — some of these areas. And they gave me estimates
on how much energy they could possibly save. And, with that, I took
those estimates and developed a report. And that’s how I developed
an estimate of how much energy the
university could save. And then, they would
implement these policies on a — on a —
on a time line. John Holdren: Good. Joey. Joey Hudy: Well, the
answer to if I kept the marshmallow
would be “yes”. You can’t really not keep
that — something like that. [laughter] John
Holdren: Great. Well, let me — our
time has come to an end. Let me thank our
panelists, Joey and Tyrone and Cristin and Gill, and
thank the audience for those terrific questions. And I will now turn the
podium back over to Bess. And the panel will
exit stage right. [applause] Female
Speaker: Thank you to our wonderful panelists,
for all of your great questions, and to the
folks watching at home on our live-stream and
tweeting us their questions. We’ll continue to take
those to @whitehouse and @whitehouseostp, #sostem. I, now, have the thrill
to introduce the White House’s Chief
Technology Officer. President Obama created
this position for the first time when he took
office in 2009, and we’re thrilled to be joined
today by the Chief Technology
Officer, Todd Park. [applause]>>
Todd Park: Hello. Audience: Hi. Todd Park:
Good morning. How is everybody? Audience: Good. Todd Park: Fantastic. Well, what an amazing
group we have here today. We’re absolutely thrilled
to be with you here at the White House to talk about
the importance of STEM and how awesome it is. I’m Todd Park, the U.S. Chief Technology Office. In my job at the White
House, I advise the President and how he can
help unleash the power of technology for all kinds
of innovative uses that can benefit Americans. One of our country’s
greatest economic strengths is technology
and the talent and ingenuity that continually
power it’s advancement. Technology opens doors to
new opportunities and ways of doing things we may
not ever even imagined possible. And one especially
exciting part of my job I want to talk about today
is making sure we’re making the best use of our
national data resources to spur as much innovation
and economic growth and general awesomeness as
humanly possible, and to tap into the unbelievably
exciting opportunities that open data
makes possible. So, what is open data? The federal government
collects and creates a vast amount of scientific,
statistical, economic, financial, geospatial, and
other data that can act as fuel for economic growth, scientific discovery, and innovation. We already opened up huge
amounts of these data to the American people and put it on the internet for free. If you go to data.gov, our
website, you can check out the latest
catalog of these data sets and grab them for yourself. The public can access
government-produced data sets about a huge range of
topics, ranging from what different
hospitals may charge for different procedures, to whether and
climate measurements, to car-safety data, to
incredibly exciting databases of biomedical
scientific knowledge produced by our National
Institutes of Health, and much, much, much, much,
much, much, much, much, much much more. What we’re seeing is
entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers, scientists,
business-owners, and students just like you,
grabbing that free data and using it to solve
problems, build new features, apps, products,
services, even entire new companies, and
creating a lot of jobs. So, one of the many, many
examples I want to tell you about is a company
called Storm Pulse, which uses freely-available
government weather data to help businesses protect
themselves and their assets from potentially
hazardous weather. There’s a whole industry,
in fact, of weather forecasting, weather
mobile apps, weather insurance, and much more
fueled by weather data made freely available by
the American government. Another example is a
company called Alltuition, a Chicago-based start-up
that provides services powered by data from our
Department of Education to help students and parents
manage the financial aid process for college. As yet another useful
example, the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services recently released a new data set
that, for the first time, shows what hospitals
charge for different services associated with
the 100 most common types of hospital stays. The data have revealed
huge variations in hospital charges across
the country and even within a given
metropolitan area. So, for example, in
Birmingham, Alabama, the average hospital charge
for a hip and knee replacement varies from
$23,000 at one hospital to $141,000 at another. This is really, really
useful information to know. In fact, within 24 hours
of us publishing this information, it was
downloaded over 100,000 times — the complete data
set for the whole country. And if you’re interested
in data that’s truly out of this world, I’d
encourage you to check out NASA’s amazing open data
resources that include information like a lunar
map catalog that contains maps of the moon’s surface
including Apollo landing sites; or databases of
images of craters by name, location, and latitude on
the surface of the planet Venus; and much,
much, much more. Open government data fuels
scientific discovery, innovation, invention,
and economic growth. And believe me, President
Obama loves open data just as much as I do. He understands the
value of open data and knowledge, and believes
that data should be open and available to the
public, to entrepreneurs, scientists, innovators, to
all of you — instead of being trapped in
government system. That’s why last year
he signed a directive requiring that, going
forward, data generated by the government will be
made available in open, machine-readable formats
— meanings that it’s in formats that are easier
to access and use — while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality, and security. We’ve made great
progress on this front. But we’ve got to keep
the momentum going. And that’s where
you come in. As the President says all
the time — all the time — you are the ones
that will keep America innovating toward
discoveries we can’t even imagine or dream of today,
and towards solutions to the world’s most
important problems. You are the hope
for the future. And open data can help you
in your quest to do so. It provides a vast
reservoir of free, raw material — free
information — to power your studies, your experiments, your inventions. It’s can be really, really
powerful fuel — key ingredients that help fuel
the launch of your first company, and your
second, and your third, and your fourth. In fact, I believe — and
actually, my background is that of a tech
entrepreneur — I believe that someone in this room
is going to tap into our open data treasure chest
— our country’s open data treasure chest that’s
free to all at data.gov — and use it to create a company
or come up with some incredible scientific
discovery that will literally change
the world. Who will it be
in this room? Who’s it going to be? Time will tell. And I can’t wait to meet
you, whoever you are, and hear all about it.

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