When college senior Maria Britton Hanes learned Donald Trump had won the presidency, her thoughts quickly turned to the fate of an Obama-era program that had profoundly impacted her.
What would become of the White House Science Fair?
“I didn’t know how Trump would feel about it,” she said.
In 2014, Britton Hanes presented her science project, the “Concussion Cushion,” at the White House. The next day, the White House invited her back for its summit, which, as it happened, was on kids, sports and concussions. Hanes called the experience “life-changing.”
While many in the science community have been apprehensive about the Trump administration’s commitment to science, given the doubts he has expressed about climate change, and the cuts to scientific research in the White House’s proposed budget, they have been relieved to find out that the administration plans to continue the science fair in 2017. A White House official confirmed to CBS News that the fair will continue under the Trump administration.
It will be the seventh White House Science Fair, and the first to be held outside of the Obama administration.
The event was conceived at the end of 2009 after President Obama promised to elevate math and science achievements.
“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too,” President Obama said in November 2009.
The first White House Science Fair was held the next year, with five more in subsequent years.
The fairs produced memorable presidential moments, most notably, in 2012 when 14-year old Joey Hudy and President Obama shot a marshmallow from Hudy’s “Extreme Marshmallow Cannon” across the State Dining Room, past George P. A. Healy’s 1869 portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
Kumar Garg, who led the planning of the White House Science Fair in the Obama administration is glad the fair will continue beyond his tenure at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“Science is not partisan; nor are the wonderful STEM students who will keep fueling American innovation — they deserve to be celebrated,” Garg said. STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and it describes curriculum geared to preparing U.S. students for an increasingly tech-focused workforce.
Though the 2017 event is likely still months away, planning has usually begun by now. The White House has not yet begun contacting organizations typically involved. Five organizations integral to the planning of past White House Science Fairs confirmed they haven’t heard from the administration yet.
Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public, said if and when the Trump administration does reach out, her organization would be eager to participate. She runs three science education programs — the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the Intel…