The stars come out for awards shows when they’re nominated. But now, they’re honoring science whiz kids. Black Eyed Peas front man will.i.am produced and hosts “i.am.FIRST: Science Is Rock and Roll,” a one-hour special that provides an inside look at the 20th Annual FIRST: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Championship. With Justin Timberlake, Bono and Snoop Dog making appearances, the ABC special (Sun., 7 p.m.) makes these kids the life of a tech-friendly, star-studded party.
Why did you get involved with the FIRST championship?
Inspiration. I’m the kind of person that when true inspiration calls, I answer and try to complement that inspiration. This “i.am.FIRST” is the first show I’ve ever produced, and these kids reminded me what you can do when you’re passionate about something important.
How did you get all your famous friends to be a part of the show?
I just relayed to them my newfound inspiration. We all share the same perspective on the urgency of the issue, as far as putting these technology and innovation programs in every school across America.
Do music producers like yourself make science seem cool to kids?
Young kids already think science is cool; they just have to be reminded that the things they use are made possible because of science and technology. IPhones, Twitter, Facebook, Google: Engineers and scientists built them.
Justin Bieber is partnering, too. Does his youth help the cause?
Definitely. Justin Bieber is cool. Just his appreciation for these kids who are disciplined in this area at such early ages is important.
What can Washington do to help?
Washington can stop talking and start doing. Not everybody is going to be Kobe Bryant, so why is there a basketball court in every school? Yes, sports make money, but NASA makes money; so does Lockheed Martin. Why not have an engineering program in every school?
Are you sad to see the space program ending?
Yeah, it’s sad. I grew up mesmerized by NASA, but you know, it’s not over. A big space program ends and individuals who made money because of innovation are going to move forward — Richard Branson, the people that started PayPal and Virgin. That should tell the government something, right?
Do you think that technology and fashion go together?
In the future, technology and fashion will go together. Clothes will have more functionality. A hat won’t just be a hat anymore. It will be redefined to do new things. The birth of fashionology will come in the next five years.
Is there a book you recommend to kids to help them innovate?
Ha, yeah. A MacBook.
Photo by Fred Dufour/Getty Images