I see a future in which today’s youth are inventing products that solve problems in their communities and starting companies to bring their inventions to life, where they’re getting and providing well-paying jobs and helping build industries and the brain trust in their hometowns, and where they’re collaborating with local schools and other public and private organizations to help feed the cycle of education, invention, and jobs.
Achieving this vision is a goal of the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab. Through our three cornerstone facilities in San Diego, Detroit and Falls Church, Virginia, and the growing number of Inspired by Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab sites at schools, libraries, universities and businesses around the country, Qualcomm is expanding STEM opportunities to students of all social and economic backgrounds, one lab at a time.
Collaboration is key to our program’s success. We’re teaming up with organizations in the public and private sectors to help prepare students for a future in which a wide range of well-paying jobs will require technical acumen.
Because Qualcomm’s business is about invention and mobile communications, our STEM program exposes students to engineering concepts such as coding, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the diversity of careers that are available at a tech company like ours. To spark students’ interest in engineering as a potential career path, our program engages them in fun projects that allow them to build their own robotic inventions.
Most recently, we celebrated the opening of a Thinkabit Lab inside the University of Michigan’s (U-M) Michigan Engineering Zone (MEZ) in downtown Detroit. The MEZ also provides the infrastructure for FIRST teams who go there after school to build their robots. The beauty of this arrangement is that we can spark students’ interest in STEM in the Thinkabit Lab, and the FIRST teams’ robots demonstrate where their interest can go.
STEM knowledge is transferrable to many industries. In the Motor City, our collaboration with U-M aims to inspire students to pursue STEM degrees that will prepare them for jobs with automotive companies like Ford, which is developing connected cars in collaboration with Qualcomm, AT&T and Nokia, and for other types of companies that are contributing to Detroit’s renaissance.
STEM engagement is an opportunity in other public institutions besides universities and schools. The California State Library (CSL) recognizes that STEM programs can provide valuable opportunities for local businesses and educators to shape the development of their community’s future workforce. Our collaboration with the City of Chula Vista, Chula Vista Elementary School District and Chula Vista Public Library on the Innovation Station Inspired by Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab inspired the CSL to announce in October 2017 that it would award up to $200,000 in grants to California libraries that want to collaborate with employers and educators to create STEM labs similar to ours.
Employers in the U.S. are struggling to find the sophisticated expertise they need to fill open positions, and the shortage in qualified workers is predicted to grow. In fact, there could be as many as 1.1 million unfilled STEM jobs in the United States by 2024.
STEM programs like the Thinkabit Lab are important because they support innovation, a pipeline of skilled workers, and the development of students for well-paying careers in fields such as computer science and engineering. They are also critical for building that ecosystem of industry and jobs in local areas. It’s wonderful to see the programs, energy and funding put into these efforts, and I hope that inspires even more local industries to get involved in building the communities of the future.