Crafts and tools line the walls inside brightly painted rooms at the end of the first floor hall in Virginia Tech’s Falls Church campus in the National Capital Region.
It’s here in the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at Virginia Tech that, since 2016, more than 4,000 students and teachers, primarily from underserved and underrepresented communities in the D.C. area, have wired, programmed, and crafted their own unique inventions. Such creations include a roving robot vacuum topped with stuffed animals, a “dabbing” lion, model traffic light systems, and all kinds of environmental sensors. In the process, students are exposed to careers and opportunities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, mostly for the first time.
The Thinkabit Lab is led by Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering and School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, based on Qualcomm’s World of Work and STEM coursework.
“Most of the young people that visit our lab will still be working full-time until 2065 or beyond. We want to start building their communication skills, technical skills, and technical career awareness today,” said Jim Egenrieder, director of the lab and a member of Virginia Tech’s research faculty.