Hanging out with “We the Geeks”

This live event has concluded. Watch the "We the Geeks" Hangout below or on YouTube and stay tuned for upcoming Hangouts. You can join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #WeTheGeeks.


On May 16th, the White House is kicking off “We the Geeks,” a new series of Google+ Hangouts to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. Topics such as commercial space exploration, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, turning science fiction to science fact, and others will be discussed with Administration officials and key private sector contributors.

The first "We the Geeks" Hangout will focus on Grand Challenges, ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. Grand Challenges are an important element of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. On April 2nd, the President called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century.

An example of a past Grand Challenge was the sequencing of the entire human genome that, according to one recent study, has contributed to the U.S. economy more than $140 for every $1 invested by the Federal government. President Obama just announced the BRAIN Initiative, a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.  The Department of Energy is leading the way in Clean Energy Grand Challenges with SunShot, an initiative to make solar energy as cheap as coal, and EV Everywhere, an initiative announced by President Obama to make electric vehicles as affordable and convenient to own as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles.  

The Obama Administration supports the identification and pursuit of Grand Challenges because the approach can:

  • help solve important economic and societal problems;
  • serve as a “North Star” for high-impact, multi-disciplinary collaborations among government, industry, universities, non-profits, and philanthropists;
  • create a foundation for industries and jobs of the future;
  • capture public imagination and increase support for public policies that foster science, technology, and innovation; and
  • inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

In addition to Federal investments, there are a growing number of companies, foundations, philanthropists, and research universities that are interested in pursuing Grand Challenges. During this Thursday’s "We the Geeks" Hangout, I'll join White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation Tom Kalil and an extraordinary panel of innovators from around the country to discuss the elements of an "all hands on deck" effort to pursue Grand Challenges. Participants include:

  • Matt Grob, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., to discuss the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE and other bold research initiatives at Qualcomm
  • Rob High, IBM Fellow, Vice President, and Chief Technology Officer, IBM Watson Solutions, to discuss what’s next for Watson and the field of cognitive computing
  • Kathryn Latham, recent graduate from Duke University with a degree in engineering and participant in the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program
  • Sebastian Thrun, a research professor at Stanford, a Google Fellow, and a co-founder of Udacity, to discuss Google’s self-driving car and Google X

So tune in Thursday, May 16, at 2:00 p.m. EDT on WhiteHouse.gov and on the White House Google+ page, as we begin a new series of future-focused Hangouts from the White House.

Cristin Dorgelo is Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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