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Students Speak: The Power of STEM

President Obama met with 40 of the nation's top scientists and engineers who all have something in common -- they happen to be in high school.

Earlier this month, President Obama met with 40 of the nation’s top scientists and engineers—discoverers of new drug candidates to treat common cancers; inventors of tools to help surgeons in the operating room; developers of complex algorithms that can help robots navigate; and more. All of these innovators were finalists in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search competition, and all of them are still in high school.

These students are living proof that with the right skills, tools, and opportunities, innovation and discovery can happen at any age. That’s why the Obama Administration is placing a stronger emphasis than ever on equipping the next generation of American innovators in science, technology, engineering, and math—the “STEM” fields.

Luckily, there is no shortage of passion among students about the power and “coolness” of STEM. Here’s what some of the Intel competition finalists had to say about the power and potential of science, technology, engineering and math:

"STEM holds the key to changing the world for the better" - Kensen Shi, 17, A&M Consolidated High School, TX

"STEM provides a link between learning and doing, tying knowledge to experimentation and real-world problems" - Adam Bowman, 17, Montgomery Bell Academy, TN

"Pursuing STEM at any age allows you to discover and answer fundamental questions about the universe, from creating frisbee shooting robots to studying the causes behind cancer" - Lillian Chin, 18, The Westminster Schools, GA

"STEM is cool because it provides opportunities to develop new technologies to improve the quality of life" - Kelly Zhang, 17, College Preparatory School, CA

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why, with the help of critical partners at foundations, non-profits, universities, and private-sector companies, the Obama Administration is acting to achieve two ambitious goals:  adding one million more STEM graduates in the next decade, and preparing 100 thousand excellent STEM teachers to give students the skills they need to thrive.

But success isn’t just about increasing numbers. We also know that diversity is one of America’s greatest assets. To build a truly innovative STEM workforce of the future, we must do everything we can to incorporate the full range of the Nation’s talents, skills, and perspectives—including those of communities typically underrepresented in STEM, such as women, girls, and minorities.

Soon after his State of the Union Address last month, President Obama participated in a Google+ Hangout, saying:

One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent … not being encouraged the way they need to.

To that end, as part of our response to President Obama’s call to countries around the world to politically and economically empower women and girls, the White House launched the Equal Futures App Challenge to promote civic education and inspire girls to serve as leaders in our democracy. And, through our broad Tech Inclusion initiatives—including a Tech Inclusion Summit last held at the White House last month—we’re working to expand participation of all youth in tech fields, including underrepresented minorities and girls, by collaborating with community groups, businesses, and organizations committed to the same goal.

There are steps you can take right now to help expand the participation of the Nation’s young people in STEM studies and careers:

Together, we can empower American STEM students to—in the words of Intel finalist Paulomi Bhattacharya, 18 (Harker School, CA) — “look around and imagine something even greater in the hope of bettering society and the world.”