Recently, Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab and Virginia Tech hosted teachers, students, policymakers and media at the Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church, Virginia to celebrate the opening of a new Thinkabit Lab — marking the latest milestone in Qualcomm’s commitment to STEM education over the last 30 years.
The Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab brings students, educators and community members into a dedicated space — part lab, makerspace and classroom — to foster problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and help develop critical skills needed for 21st century jobs. The Thinkabit Lab has served more than 8,000 students and hundreds of teachers and administrators since opening in 2014, through the lab in our headquarters, as well as the four replication sites in the San Diego area.
As an engineer, I was fascinated instantly by the Thinkabit Lab and its hands-on making and STEM activities, as well as its World of Work experience, which enables students to see what kinds of careers these activities can lead to. I was thrilled that Qualcomm further expanded Thinkabit Lab outside of California so more students can have hands-on STEM experiences and teachers can continue learning about best practices for teaching STEM.
At Qualcomm, we believe that increasing the number of STEM grads is essential to keeping innovation moving forward and growing the global economy. Our future as a leading technology company and country is dependent on a steady, incoming workforce of talented engineers. We have witnessed the impact of engineers and computer scientists in driving the adoption of mobile technology around the world. The Boston Consulting Group reported that the mobile value chain generated almost $3.3 trillion in revenue globally in 2014 and is directly responsible for 11 million jobs. As we look ahead to 5G, the need for innovation — and thus STEM professionals — shows no sign of slowing.
This is why a key part of our collaboration with Virginia Tech is to leverage its academic depth in engineering and education by working with educators who may lead further Thinkabit-inspired, STEM experiences in schools and community programs. Additionally, faculty research will assess how the program impacts students’ access to STEM teaching and learning activities, and awareness of STEM education and career options.
We look forward to working with educators in the Washington, D.C. area just as we did with several school districts in San Diego. “For the past two years, San Diego Unified and Qualcomm have partnered to cultivate innovation in both teaching and learning through the Thinkabit Lab,” said Cindy Marten, Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District. “The Thinkabit Lab has made engineering real and has empowered our children, allowing them to wonder, to dream, and to see their creativity come to life.” These collaborations and programs showcase the type of impact that the private sector can have to increase STEM exposure.
The Thinkabit Lab experience is about encouraging students to imagine things that they previously considered unimaginable by giving them to ability to create something they’ve never seen. This is crucial when innovating new technologies. We never imagined that the brick phones of 30 years ago would evolve into the modern day smartphone. Without STEM none of this would have been possible. Let’s ensure that today’s students are prepared for tomorrow’s careers through STEM learning and hands-on experiences.