Obama seemed particularly charmed by the “COOL Pads” designed by the three youngest exhibitors who were the Grade K–3 Regional Winners of the 2012 Toshiba and National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision competition. The boys’ winning proposal used temperature sensors placed throughout football players’ bodies that detect overheating and respond by activating ice packs in the “COOL Pads” under the shoulder pads to prevent heat stroke.
The prototype, designed by brothers Evan and Alec Jackson, 10 and eight respectively, and their friend Caleb Robinson, eight, all of McDonough, Ga., also included a wearable soft pouch of Gatorade and an extra long straw so players could hydrate without leaving the field. “They can drink any flavor they want, and they don’t have to go to the sidelines for Gatorade,” said Evan Jackson. “It would also be good for firefighters, hockey players, NASCAR racers and the military.” The boys admit that they don’t have the technological know-how quite yet to make a working version of their proposal—they’re only in the third and fourth grades—but luckily, at their age, all they needed was a really good idea and a prototype to win their competition. “We hope to build it in 20 years,” Robinson said.
During his remarks in the East Room later that afternoon, Obama made a point of mentioning the COOL Pads to wide receiver Victor Cruz of the New York Giants, who was in the audience as an invited guest, adding, “It could work.”
More importantly, Obama said, these kids are excited about science, and now the challenge is to mentor that interest. “Think about that,” he said. “If you’re inventing stuff when you’re in third grade, what are you going to do by the time you get to college?”
Obama added that his goal is to “reach a level of research and development that we haven’t seen since the height of the space race.” In the meantime, he said, the science fair is a reminder that the country needs to celebrate “the outstanding contributions that scientists and engineers and mathematicians are providing to us every single day. And we want you to know that you’ve got a whole country behind you as you pursue your dreams. And your success is going to be our success as well.”