By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON, March 30 (Reuters) - The real U.S. Senate may be mired in gridlock, but officials hope a virtual one opening in Boston this week will allow students to show their elected elders in Washington how to get things done.
U.S. President Barack Obama will attend the inauguration of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on Monday. Its centerpiece is a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate chamber.
Groups of middle school and high school students will assemble in the roughly $79 million virtual Senate, located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Boston, using high-tech applications to try out politics and law-making.
"The experience allows students to take on simulated roles as senators," the non-profit institute, co-founded by Kennedy widow Victoria Reggie Kennedy, said in a press release.
It said it hoped the program would boost civic engagement among America's youth, "amid decreased investments in civics education, growing feelings of disillusionment and frustration with an increasingly polarized political system, and daily reports of government dysfunction."
President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden will attend and speak at the project's opening ceremony Monday morning. The institute will then be opened to the public on Tuesday.
Edward Kennedy died in 2009 from brain cancer after serving as the Democratic Senator for Massachusetts for nearly 47 years. The institute is intended to "accomplish Senator Kennedy's desire to create a participatory experience where people could see what it was like to be a Senator and act in the best interests of their State and the United States," the institute said in the release. (Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by David Gregorio)
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