President Barack Obama today announced the establishment of National Lab Day as part of his administration’s new campaign for science and technology education.
The grassroots effort includes community volunteers, organizations of teachers, scientists and engineers and partnerships with private businesses. It plans to give 10 million children, grades six through 12, an opportunity to “launch rockets, construct miniature windmills and get their hands dirty”, Obama said during the announcement.
NLD is no “bring your daughter to work” day — the kids will be in it for the long haul, relatively speaking. The first annual NLD will run the first week of May 2010, and will be the culmination of a series of laboratory activities, with “laboratory” meaning everything from a facility with bubbling chemicals, to a classroom, to a laptop linked to the LHC. Teachers propose projects on the NLD website, and scientists, sponsors and other volunteers can then search through the proposals and decide which they’d like to help out with.
In line with Obama’s claim that “we’re going to show young people how cool science can be,” one of the proposed projects would teach kids how to program apps for iPhones or Androids. Another proposal wants to bring hands-on plate tectonic studies to Ohio, and one in California hopes to study endangered species, including running PCRs on DNA from California condors.
Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign also includes a number of larger business partnerships; the private sector has alread committed more than $260 million, he said. For example, the MacArthur Foundation is partnering with Sony and other technology companies to fund science-related video games, and Sesame Street will begin a two-year focus on math and science.