Obama hosts second Astronomy Night at White House

President Barack Obama tells more than 300 guests at the White House for Astronomy Night on Monday that science, technology, engineering and math education are important for the country’s future. SHFWire Photo by Matias Ocner
President Barack Obama tells more than 300 guests at the White House for Astronomy Night on Monday that science, technology, engineering and math education are important for the country’s future. SHFWire Photo by Matias Ocner

By Matias J. Ocner

Read in SHFWire

WASHINGTON – Giant telescopes, science projects and astronauts created an outdoor astronomy lab on a chilly Monday night at the White House for students, parents and teachers.

It was the second Astronomy Night, when President Barack Obama told 300 guests that science, technology, engineering and math education in schools are important for the country’s future.

Politicians and celebrities, including Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from “Mythbusters” were there to work with the students.

“We need to inspire more young people to ask about the stars and begin that lifetime quest to become the next great scientist, or inventor, or engineer, or astronaut,” said Obama, who plans to have Americans visit Mars in the 2030s.

Obama, standing next to an astronaut’s space suit, brought together students, teachers, scientists, astronauts and others to spend an evening stargazing on the White House South Lawn. Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and the student from Texas whose homemade clock was mistaken for a bomb, were in the audience. SHFWire Photo by Matias Ocner
Obama, standing next to an astronaut’s space suit, brought together students, teachers, scientists, astronauts and others to spend an evening stargazing on the White House South Lawn. Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and the student from Texas whose homemade clock was mistaken for a bomb, were in the audience. SHFWire Photo by Matias Ocner

“We have to watch for, and cultivate, and encourage those glimmers of curiosity and possibility, and not suppress them, not squelch them, because not only are the young people’s futures at stake, but our own is at stake,” Obama said.According to the Department of Education, only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career.

He was likely referring to Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim teen from Irving, Texas, who was arrested last month for bringing a homemade clock to school. His teachers mistook the device for a bomb and called police. Ahmed was in the crowd on the South Lawn.

A photo of the bewildered teen in handcuffs went viral, and Ahmed began receiving thousands of messages of support on social media. Among them were Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Hilary Clinton and musician Pharrell Williams.

President Obama invited Ahmed to the White House in a Tweet.

After the president’s speech, Ahmed had a brief chance to speak with Obama, where they conversed about space and the upcoming Mars project.

Ahmed Mohamed, 14, from Irving, Texas, was arrested last month for bringing a homemade clock to his high school that teachers mistook for a bomb. Ahmed’s story went viral and was later invited to the White House by President Obama. He was accompanied by his father, Mohamed al Hassan, right, and Ron Price, former Dallas school board member. SHFWire Photo by Matias Ocner
Ahmed Mohamed, 14, from Irving, Texas, was arrested last month for bringing a homemade clock to his high school that teachers mistook for a bomb. Ahmed’s story went viral and was later invited to the White House by President Obama. He was accompanied by his father, Mohamed al Hassan, right, and Ron Price, former Dallas school board member. SHFWire Photo by Matias Ocner

“It was amazing actually,” said Ahmed, who hopes to find a career in a STEM related field. He spoke Tuesday after a Capitol Hill press conference condemning the actions of Ahmed’s school.

“It’s an outstanding program, and it’s for kids that want to learn about science, engineering, and technology,” he said about STEM programs.

At the White House, Ahmed looked through a telescope and saw the moon, Mars and Uranus. He also got the opportunity to talk with Bill Nye.

“It felt really good to meet with one of my childhood idols,” he said.

Reach reporter Matias J. Ocner at matias.ocner@scripps.com or 202-408-1492. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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