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Posted at 02:09 PM ET, 02/12/2013

First lady’s State of the Union invite list reads like who’s-who of innovation


First lady Michelle Obama during the Kids' Inaugural concert at the Washington Convention Center on Jan. 19 in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski - AFP/Getty Images)

Well, the first lady’s box will feature a number of familiar faces, at least to frequent readers of this blog. Let’s just say, if President Obama doesn’t dedicate a good portion of his speech to American innovation, we’ll be very, very surprised.


Apple CEO Tim Cook in March 2012 as he announces the new iPad in San Francisco. (Paul Sakuma - AP)

First, there’s Tim Cook, who became CEO of Apple in August 2011, shortly before company co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs died. Cook has been relatively vocal lately, offering an extensive interview to BusinessWeek this past December. Lately Cook has been fielding questions about whether Apple, which recently slipped to the second-most valuable company in the world, has what it takes to continue producing groundbreaking products as it has with the iPhone and iPad. In a shareholders meeting Tuesday morning, the Apple chief executive defended the company’s strategy, saying it was a “center of innovation.”


Activity lead Bobak Ferdowsi, who cuts his hair differently for each mission, works inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 5, 2012. (Brian van der Brug - AP)

Then there’s Bobak Ferdowsi, who quickly became known as “Mohawk Guy” when he was spotted on the live feed of NASA’s mission control during the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity in August. Since then, Ferdowsi, the Flight Director for the mission, has become the face — well, the human face — of the rover mission and a larger campaign on the part of scientists and others, including musician Will.i.am, to make science cool for the younger generation. He was so popular, in fact, we interviewed him twice.


Fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka. (Jane Andraka)

Then there’s Jack Andraka, recipient of the top prize at last year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Andraka, now 16, won the award for his work in cancer research, specifically researching a cheap sensor for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer.

During an interview at TedXMidAtlantic this past October, Andraka said that discovering an innovation challenge to pursue is as easy as doing a Web search: “Anyone can do it. You just have to type in a few words and you can come up with an idea. All you have to find is something that you’re passionate about.”

So, start hunting around the Web, and maybe you’ll find your way to the first lady’s box via your own innovation.

My colleague, Rachel Weiner, has the full list of guests invited to join the first lady at the State of the Union over on PostPolitics.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Who’s sitting in Michelle Obama’s State of the Union box

Aliens, love — it doesn’t matter, it’s the same hunt

Why you’re not working on an asteroid shield

Innovation and the pace of the papacy

By  |  02:09 PM ET, 02/12/2013

 
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