The Impact of the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab

Jun 8, 2022 10:00 AM ET
Article

Our Thinkabit Lab program shows students from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds that they can be part of inventing the wireless world of the future. Learners of all ages explore careers available at Qualcomm and other technology companies. They engage in fun and unique engineering projects, culminating in the design of an IoT-themed invention that addresses a problem in their community and the world around them. The program relies heavily on hands-on activities to learn about coding, sensors, circuits, patents, IoT, 5G and more. These activities help students understand where they see themselves in the future workforce and how they could use technology to help make the world a better place.

We launched our Thinkabit Lab program in 2014 at Qualcomm’s headquarters in San Diego. We have evolved and expanded the program yearly to broaden our reach and create greater impact. As of 2021, our program has inspired more than 85,000 students across the U.S. to become the next generation of inventors and helped them to create more than 24,000 of their own inventions. Through collaborations with public, private and nonprofit organizations, we now have a celebrated network of 22 Thinkabit Lab collaborators and more than 56 trained educators and instructors at schools, universities, non-profits and libraries in eight states nationwide.

We also expanded our program with new online and virtual learning experiences, including virtual summer STEM camps that have enabled many more future inventors to participate. In 2021, to maintain the momentum and build on the terrific success of our virtual camps implemented the previous summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, we resumed in-person camps at select sites within our national network and continued offering virtual camps. Collectively, we provided 37 weeklong camp sessions with over 1,200 elementary, middle and high school students including nine all-girls sessions.

To further inspire camp participants, we added engaging new content, such as our Path to Invention and 5G Academy. The Path to Invention aims to spark the spirit of innovation among students, while facilitating greater understanding of the route of invention – from idea to development to obtaining a patent and all the way through to production and sales. Because we believe that patents are vital to innovation, students showcased their final projects in the form of patent presentations as a culminating camp activity. These video presentations included components such as the name of their inventions, invention schematics and an abstract of their creation. The 5G Academy is comprised of a website and field guide that explain the ins and outs of 5G, Qualcomm’s role in developing this fifth generation of wireless technology and why the world will be a better place because of this transformative advancement. We leveraged the 5G Academy to add a new 5G activity for students participating in all of our camps.

Our online Learning Center continues to provide educators, librarians, youth organization leaders and other adult community members nationwide with access to a variety of fun and free coding activities and other educational resources that can be downloaded for use in their classroom, home or organization. Activities range from writing code to introductory engineering games and tools to exploring future careers in technology. These materials help Thinkabit Lab collaborators and participants engage in STEM learning even outside of our formalized programs.

We’ve continued to tap into Qualcomm employees’ passion and commitment to inspire future inventors. We engaged employees for our new summer speakership opportunity. As volunteers, they represented both engineering and non-engineering roles and the diversity within our workforce. Collectively, they volunteered over 90 hours of their time to speak to aspiring young inventors about working in the tech industry and offer insight as they navigate their future STEM education and careers.

We formed new partnerships and built on existing collaborations to further expand our reach and amplify our impact. Part of our unprecedented student participation this year is attributed to our expansion through AAUW. In addition to our existing relationship with AAUW Tech Trek California, three other states joined our network – Florida, New Mexico and Washington. Together, “I discovered I was more creative than I thought I would be, and I learned that even if I had no idea why something wouldn’t work, I was able to keep working hard and persist until I found the problem. I also learned that I am actually interested in engineering.” – Middle School Participant, AAUW Wearable Tech Camp (New Mexico), All-Girls, 2021 over 650 girls were engaged in the Thinkabit Lab Wearable Tech project which required each student to program and build an automated wearable tech invention that represents their strengths, interests and values.

The Thinkabit Lab summer camp expansion was a resounding success:

  • 60% growth in national presence
  • 150% growth in the number of organizations offering our invention-based camps
  • 124% increase in the number of teachers trained to teach the activities
  • 200+ AAUW adult volunteers trained to implement the program
  • Close to 400% more students participated in the program and were inspired to be the next generation of inventors
  • More than 50% of students were girls who participated in all-girl camp sessions

Learn more in Qualcomm's 2021 Corporate Responsibility Report