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Inspired by Baltimore third-grader, White House invites science input from students

White House follows through on science idea from 9-year-old Baltimorean.

Taking its cue from a third-grader in Baltimore, the Obama administration on Thursday opened a dialogue with students to seek ideas on how the government can encourage more young people to engage in science, math and technology.

White House officials announced in a blog post that they are inviting students — or "kid scientists and innovators" — to send in their ideas for shaping the future of the field, including how to improve science and engineering education in schools.

The idea, officials said, was sparked by 9-year-old Jacob Leggette of Sandtown, who became something of a media sensation for his interaction with President Barack Obama at a White House science fair last month. Leggette suggested that students themselves should have a role in shaping the White House policy on science education.

"The president loved the idea, and suggested that we bring together a group of kids to share their thoughts on what they think is important in science, technology, and innovation," the blog post reads. "Kids know first¿hand what's working inside and outside of their classrooms and how to better engage students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math [STEM] fields."

Leggette told The Baltimore Sun in April that the science fair "was the best day of my life." His favorite project that he showed the president was a set of sticky toys he made by designing and creating molds on a 3-D printer. Obama blew bubbles using a wand Leggette had made.

The home-schooled third-grader was first introduced to 3D printing at a foundation summer camp last year, and he has continued learning since. Leggette's mother told The Sun that her son learned to read when he was 3 and taught himself how to multiply. He can recite the names of the 44 presidents in succession.

The announcement comes on the same day Obama is set to award the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation — the highest honors bestowed by the federal government on scientists, engineers, and inventors — to 17 individuals at a White House ceremony.

One of the recipients is Dr. Robert Fischell, a Howard County resident who has invented dozens of medical devices over the past 40 years, including the rechargeable pacemaker, implantable insulin pump and a variety of stents to help unclog coronary arteries.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

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