For Pakistani-American Mark Humayun, his grandmother who went blind from diabetes inspired him to develop a computer chip that goes into the eye to restore sight - otherwise known a the "bionic eye." "I am happy to report that that is an approved product in the U.S. and Europe in helping many people worldwide," the ophthalmologic surgeon told reporters at the White House Thursday.

For scientist Jonathan Rothberg, it was his newborn son who was rushed to the hospital with breathing problems nearly two decades ago that led him to become a pioneer in genetic sequencing technology. "I am gratified today because not only did the president say my family was beautiful, but my (now) 16-year-old son had a smile on his face," Rothberg said. The two are among 17 recipients of this year’s National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation, awarded annually for outstanding contributions to science and engineering. "The amount of brain power in this room right now is astonishing," President Barack Obama said Thursday as he presented each of the men and women with their medals in the East Room of the White House.

Obama said bestowing the honor is particularly significant in inspiring the next generations to enter science and technology. "We want those who have invented the products and lifesaving medicines and are engineering our future to be celebrated," Obama noted. "Immersing young people in science math engineering - that’s what’s going to carry the American spirit of innovation through the 21 st century and beyond." The president noted that many of the recipients came from humble or ordinary beginnings, but were inspired by something or someone along their life’s journey. "Because they lived in an America that fosters curiosity and invests in education and values science as important to our progress, they were able to find their calling and do extraordinary things," Obama said.