Obama also talked about science deniers and the dangers he said they bring.
"I get so worked up when I hear people willfully ignore facts or stick their heads in the sand about basic scientific consensus," he said. "It undermines the very thing that has always made America the engine for innovation around the world. It's not just that they're saying climate change is a hoax..., it's that they're doing everything they can to cut funding for research and development."
He added that listening to science only when it fits a certain ideology is "the path to ruin."
"When the Russians beat us to space, we didn't deny that Sputnik was up there," said Obama. "That wouldn't have worked. No, we acknowledged the facts and then basically built a space system overnight and then beat them to the moon.... That's where facts will get you. That's where science will get you."
To keep America innovating, Obama said the government and schools need to make sure students are educated in math and science.
Noting that his administration started the White House Science Fair and helped bring high-speed Internet access to classrooms across the country, the president said he's fully behind pushing STEM education.
"We're working to help all of our children to understand they have a place in science and technology," said Obama. "We want Jamal and Maria sitting next to Jimmy and Johnny because we want them all involved in our future.... To get where we need to go, we need to lift everybody up because we want a brilliant team. We don't want someone with a great idea not in the room because she's a woman."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.