This being National Week of Making, I’m hopeful that the White House’s spotlight on the Maker Movement will encourage more businesses, schools, libraries and other organizations to create a makerspace like the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab. Thinkabit allows individuals of diverse ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to experience our Qualcomm culture of making and empowers them to invent and turn their ideas into reality.
By day, Thinkabit buzzes with middle school students from across the county learning how to make LEDs light up and blink, and how to make stuffed animals dance. As enormously fun as those classes are, I also enjoy what happens after hours — and sometimes I wonder which I like more.
Twice a week, Thinkabit hosts Tinkering and DragonBoard nights — open-ended, unstructured evenings specifically for Qualcomm employees and their families to come and play in the lab.
Tinkering nights, held every Thursday, is a time to explore, tinker, innovate and create. Some of the employee-visitors are beginning crafters and some are experienced engineers.
DragonBoard nights, held every Wednesday, is all about playing with the DragonBoard 410c which runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. This is the same development board used by makers/developers and engineers worldwide to build next-generation robotics, cameras, smart buildings and other innovations based on our Snapdragon processors.
Just like the thousands of students who visit Thinkabit annually to learn to code, collaborate and create robotic crafts, our employee-visitors need only to bring their curiosity and imagination. The lab supplies the rest, including printed materials for self-guided learning, starter kits and lots of tools and materials for making a wide range of cool projects. There are microcontrollers, servo motors, computers, oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, laser cutter, 3D printer and much more.
Employees are also welcome to bring their own tools and materials. One time, an employee brought in an electric wheelchair, tinkered with it and left being able to operate it via remote control from a tablet.
I love seeing how excited our engineering and non-engineering employees get when building their very first Robo Craft and their sense of pride and accomplishment when they show me their final product.
I also love watching our engineers plant the seeds of inspiration in their kids while showing them what they do at work and refreshing themselves on the basics. One evening, a dad and his daughter built a very cool jack-in-the-box that they programmed to continuously pop out, go back in and pop back out. Every time it popped out, its eyes lit up.
Qualcomm employees often store their projects in the Thinkabit Lab, which is not only convenient for them, but more importantly gives our middle-school visitors an idea of what’s possible at a more advanced level and the inspiration to unleash their inner inventor.