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Qualcomm Expands Program To Entice Next Generation Of San Diego Engineers

Photo caption:

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Teachers and students at Lewis Middle School work on building a Rube Goldberg machine in their new Qualcomm-funded engineering lab called the Thinkabit Lab, Dec. 3, 2015.

Qualcomm unveiled its newest educational lab Wednesday at Lewis Middle School in San Diego.

The Thinkabit educational lab program was created by the semiconductor maker to inspire budding engineers.

Seventh grader McKenzie Parsons enjoys making things in the Thinkabit lab at Lewis Middle School.

“I love being able to get my hands dirty and doing anything that I want,” Parsons said.

The labs are a combination of an engineering space and classroom for sixth- to eighth-grade students. Classes are led by Qualcomm engineers and coaches who guide students to create, code, collaborate and present robotic creations.

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten said the Thinkabit lab is part of how the district is changing the way it teaches.

“We’re taking our classes and changing them," she said. "So this was a wood shop class and now it’s a design pathways class on the engineering pathway to take students to Patrick Henry High.”

Qualcomm’s Ed Hidalgo said learning about engineering is just a part of what students discover at the lab.

Qualcomm is “in deep on this,” Hidalgo said.

“It’s going to have to be more than just check writing and it’s going to have to be sustained and consistent,” Hidalgo said. “It can’t just be a two week summer camp.”

Thinkabit labs are now in Lewis Middle in San Diego, Vista’s Innovation and Design Academy and Feaster Charter School in Chula Vista.

Hidalgo said he'd like to see the lab replicated in more San Diego public schools, in schools across the nation and maybe even internationally.

The first Thinkabit lab is at Qualcomm’s Sorrento Valley office, and thousands of students have built robots and learned computer code there. Qualcomm’s Ed Hidalgo said learning about engineering is just a part of what students discover at the lab.

“There is an aspect, a bit of a deeper aspect I think, in the discovery of each child’s unique strengths, interests and values,” he said.

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