WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama confessed to feeling a little bit, well, unaccomplished.
There was the catapult-armed mannequin who shot three-point baskets, the 18-year-old cancer researcher and the second-grade Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, with their Lego "flood-proof" bridge design.
"I'm such an underachiever," Obama said after chatting with Eric Chen at Tuesday's annual White House Science Fair. Chen, a Harvard-bound San Diego, California, high school senior, won grand prizes at the 2013 Google Science Fair and the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology for identifying new drug candidates for the treatment of influenza.
It's an annual self-deprecating routine for the Harvard trained lawyer and 44th president of the United States, who happily recounts his personal challenges in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
"One year I accidentally killed some plants that were part of my experiment," he told Tuesday's White House Science Fair audience. "Another time a bunch of mice escaped in my grandmother's apartment. These experiments did not take me straight to the White House."
This year, Obama drew special attention to the science and engineering achievements of girls and young women, noting that men outnumber women studying and working in engineering and computer science.
"Half our team we're not even putting on the field," he said. "We've got to change those numbers."
Obama announced a new $35 million Education Department competition to train the best math and science teachers. He also announced and expansion of AmeriCorps to help teach science and math to 18,000 low-income students this summer, and national science and math mentoring projects in Chicago; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis; the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina; and Wichita, Kansas.