September 30, 2014 19:55 UTC

American Mosaic

A First for Girls in This Year's Siemens Math and Science Competition

Also: A question from Burma about the White House.  And music from the latest album by Melissa Etheridge. <em>Transcript of radio broadcast:</em>

HOST:

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

(MUSIC)

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We listen to some music from Melissa Etheridge …

Answer a question about the White House …

And tell about the results of a recent high school science competition.

Siemens Competition

HOST:

Last week, the Siemens Foundation announced the winners of the Mathematics, Science and Technology Competition for high school students. The foundation created the competition nine years ago to improve student performance in math and science in the United States.  It is open to any student who is a citizen or legal resident. Barbara Klein has more.

BARBARA KLEIN:

This year was a first in the history of the Siemens Competition.  It was the first time females won the top prizes in both the individual and team competitions.

The individual winner was Isha Jain of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She received one hundred thousand dollars toward her college education for her research into bone growth.  The Siemens judges said she is the first to discover that bone growth takes place in many different short periods of time. They said her work was equal to that of a graduate student in college.

The top team winners were Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff of Plainview, New York. They are sharing one hundred thousand dollars for their college educations.  They did research on the disease tuberculosis. They created a molecule that helps block drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria from reproducing.  The contest judges said the students created new compounds to kill tuberculosis by targeting a protein that could lead to a new treatment for drug-resistant TB.

The Siemens Foundation joined with the College Board and six universities to start the competition.  The Siemens Foundation president says the number of girls entering the contest has increased each year.  This year, more than one thousand six hundred students took part. Forty-eight percent were female. 

Experts from the universities judge competitions in six areas of the country.  The individual and team winners from those contests then compete nationally.  They demonstrate their projects to a group of university professors and scientists.  This year, the judges were led by Joseph Taylor, a winner of the Nobel Prize in physics. 

As part of their prize, the winning students will ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in February.

The White House

HOST:

Our listener question this week comes from Burma. Tharr Naing wants to know about the White House, the home of the President of the United States and his family. This famous building is at sixteen hundred Pennsylvania Avenue, in the center of Washington, D.C.

The first American President, George Washington, worked with the city planner Pierre L’Enfant to choose the land for the new presidential home. A competition was held to find a building designer. Nine plans were considered, and the architect James Hoban won.

Construction began in seventeen ninety-two. The first president to live there was John Adams. He and his wife Abigail moved into the White House in eighteen hundred.

During the war of eighteen twelve, British troops burned most of the inside of the White House. James Hoban helped rebuild it. Over the years, each president has made changes or additions to the building. For example, the north portico area of the building was added under President Andrew Jackson. Presidents also changed the furniture inside to show current styles.

The White House walls are made of stone that is painted white. But the famous building has had other names over time, including the President’s House and the Executive Mansion.  In the early nineteen hundreds, President Theodore Roosevelt made the White House the official name.

In the nineteen thirties, President Franklin Roosevelt decided to rebuild and expand part of the building that became known as the West Wing. Some of the public rooms in the White House are named after a color. There is the Blue Room, the Green Room and the Red Room.

In December, the White House becomes filled with holiday decorations, based on a theme.  The subject of the Christmas tree decorations this year is National Parks. First lady Laura Bush thought of the idea because she hikes in the parks throughout the year. She says that the White House sent a Christmas tree decoration to each of America’s more than three hundred national parks. Different artists painted each ornament in a way to celebrate that national park.  To see pictures of these holiday decorations, you can visit www dot white house dot gov.

Melissa Etheridge

HOST:

Melissa Etheridge has been making rock music for twenty years. This award-winning performer recently released her ninth album called “The Awakening.”  It is Etheridge's first record since she discovered she had cancer in two thousand four. The songs express the story of her life and her spiritual sense of awakening after overcoming her sickness. Katherine Cole has more.

(MUSIC)

KATHERINE COLE:

That was “California,” one of the first songs on the album. It tells how Melissa Etheridge left her home and family in the state of Kansas to follow her dreams of fame in California. Etheridge has said that she hopes listeners will take time out of their busy days to listen to her album from beginning to end. She says the songs tell a universal story about her political and spiritual beliefs and discoveries. The main influence for the album was her cancer. Melissa Etheridge believes the cancer gave her a new power and fearlessness.

Here is the song “I’ve Loved You Before.” Etheridge imagines how she and the person she loves have searched for and found each other in past lives.

(MUSIC)

Melissa Etheridge is also known for her interest in social activism. She strongly supports the environmental “green” movement. She wrote the song “I Want to Wake Up” for former Vice President Al Gore’s movie on climate change called “An Inconvenient Truth.”  She also supports rights for people in same-sex relationships.

And, in several songs on “The Awakening”, Etheridge expresses her political beliefs. We leave you with “Imagine That.”  In it, Melissa Etheridge criticizes the United States government’s policy over the war in Iraq. She praises the activist Cindy Sheehan whose son was killed in the war.

(MUSIC)

HOST:

I'm Doug Johnson.  I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. 

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English. 

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