Obama surprises students in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood

Want Chicago high school students to remember their lesson on quantum technology? Maybe bring in a surprise guest.

Former President Barack Obama sent a jolt of electricity through a technology hub in Hyde Park on Tuesday. Students from Kenwood Academy were on a field trip to learn about the future of communication when Obama suddenly appeared during a career panel.

Obama had something to say about our current form of communication, specifically all the phones that students pointed his way.

"That's a lot of power and that's great, but I hope what you are learning in this panel, and you have to understand yourself that just because it's on TikTok doesn’t mean it's true," said Obama.


Competing with that star power was the power of emerging technology at the Chicago Quantum Exchange.

"It's a new learning experience of what we're going to have in the future," said Kayla Book, Kenwood Academy student.

Using simple games, a team from the University of Chicago helped explain this complex concept. Lesson one: Quantum technology is way different than current technology that's binary and uses zeros and ones.

"Quantum technology deals with a quantum bit, and a quantum bit is not zero, or one, it's both zero and one at the same time. It's a superposition," said Professor David Awschalom, University of Chicago Professor of Molecular Engineering and Physics.

Yep, it's confusing. But kids seem to understand the importance when they had a mock election. They swiped through tangled light, getting close to quantum key distribution, which is said to be the future of communication that hackers can't hack.

"It was really cool. It was definitely fast, so I get why they call it the speed of light," said student Jadeia Washington.

Because this could be used in so many areas of our lives, experts say there will be many companies needing lots of workers. That’s why they want to interest these teens now.

"Companies, universities, national laboratories are all going to need people with this experience. It's not physics. It's not computer science. It's not electrical engineering. It's not math, it's all of it, combined with this new discipline, and they will be the users of it and define how it will be used," said Professor Awschalom.

This high-tech lesson with a high-profile speaker has put other field trips to shame.