Earlier this year President Obama included Virginia Tech and Qualcomm’s new collaboration in a list of promising educational initiatives he highlighted while recently announcing his Computer Science for All initiative. The national Week of Making, also encouraged by the President’s call to action to “lift up makers and builders and doers across the country,” is an opportunity for educators and industry to make a commitment, together, in support of a brighter future!
The heart of this new collaboration with Virginia Tech, a leading science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) institution, lies in expanding Qualcomm’s San Diego-based Thinkabit Lab, which develops curricular and programmatic activities to facilitate the long-term engagement and development of both students and teachers. A second hub, the first on the east coast, will be located in the National Capital Region at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church, Virginia — in close proximity to Washington, D.C. — will serve as a center for school-to-work activities for students, pre- and in-service teachers, and public school administrators.
Bev Watford, professor of engineering education in the College of Engineering, and Susan Ganter, professor in the school of education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, lead the Virginia Tech program with Qualcomm. We asked both to share their thoughts on the collaboration and the opportunities the Thinkabit Lab will foster.
Why is the Virginia Tech collaboration with Qualcomm on the Thinkabit expansion so critical?
Watford: Nationally, we don’t have enough high-school students planning to study engineering or computer science in college. A large reason for this problem is the lack of properly trained K-12 teachers — people able to expose students to engineering concepts by integrating them into the existing science and mathematics courses. Over the last two years Qualcomm’s San Diego Thinkabit Lab has served more than 8,000 students and more than 500 teachers actively participated. THAT track record speaks for itself.
How is the collaboration unique to Virginia Tech?
Ganter: This collaboration will forge a unique path for developing teachers who will stimulate their students’ excitement for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — STEM — through career-based, hands-on experiences. We agree 110 percent with Qualcomm on its desire to reach out and help build a “teacher pipeline” for STEM education and teach the next generation how they can create and build a better world.