Earlier this week President Obama hosted the winners of a number of major STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competitions. Two of the students who were invited to the White House for this event were Wilson To and Christian Hood (who won while still in high school!) who have been winners in the Imagine Cup competitions sponsored by Microsoft. Their picture outside the White House is below.

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Wired covered their visit at White House Science Fair Recognizes U.S. Imagine Cup Finalists where you can see their picture with Bill Nye the Science Guy. Wilson To wrote about his experience at the Huffington Post. He quotes the president as saying something very important.

"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.”

This is not the first time President Obama has said this and inviting this group of students to the White House shows that he means it. It is important that he does mean it and does follow up on it. We need to make heroes out of students who accomplish themselves in academic and other intellectual pursuits. In any organization or society you get the sort of behavior that is rewarded. We need to reward and encourage people who think, who learn, and how but that thought and knowledge together to good impact on the world. BTW You can watch Obama’s full (short) speech here.

Related to that, this week Mayor Bloomberg and Steve Ballmer announced that New York City will host Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals in July. I’m pretty excited to see this event come to the US for the first time. And as a native New Yorker (don’t hold it against me) I am thrilled that NYC will be the host city. New York is the big stage for many events. The Imagine Cup is an amazing international competition and obviously can lead to some high visibility to the students who compete and the schools they attend. With a goal to encourage students to work on the great problems of the world as identified by the United Nations Millennium Goals it is so much more than about the individual though. It is really about encouraging students to go out and use technology to change the world for the better.

Know a high school student (16 and up) or a college student with a passion for technology and a dream of making the world a better place? Encourage them to enter the Imagine Cup.