Thinkabit World of Work and Robocrafting Labs

The mission of the Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™ at Virginia Tech, National Capital Region, is to serve Washington, D.C. area students, teachers, administrators, parents, and collaborators in technical career exploration and the hands-on electronic and programming foundations of IOT and Smart Cities sensors, actuators, and data collection and analysis. In doing so, we are preparing our future STEM workforce and our increasingly diverse, technology-driven community for jobs that may not yet exist. VT-Thinkabit will work with like-minded teams, organizations and individuals interested in promoting curiosity, innovation, creativity, and students’ self-actualization and self-determination.

Friday, April 28, 2017

BEST Workforce DOD Luncheon at 2017 X-STEM


Bevlee Watford and Jim Egenrieder participate in USA Science and Engineering Festival to advance high school Students' interest in exploring STEM careers
Dr. Bevlee Watford, Virginia Tech College of Engineering.
The Department of Defense (DOD) invited Bevlee Watford, associate dean of Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering and director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, to give the keynote address at a STEM luncheon program it is sponsoring for high school students on Friday, April 28. The event took place during the USA Science and Engineering Festival and X-STEM Symposium in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 28.
Thinkabit Lab GA Andreea Sistrunk with a student.
“This is a great opportunity to excite and encourage these students to explore engineering studies and learn about the scope of possibilities within various engineering disciplines and careers,“ said Watford. “I want to help them — many of whom are from underserved populations — understand how engineers are needed to solve today’s challenging technology problems, including issues around national infrastructure, global health, and
clean drinking water.”
Prior to Watford’s keynote address, Jim Egenrieder, director of the Thinkabit Lab in the National Capital Region, will give a presentation guiding students through a Strengths, Interests, and Values inventory. He described
how to map personal and professional goals with emerging STEM career fields, highlighting the resources of the National Capital Region Thinkabit Lab and Virginia Tech's Virginia Career View.
At the event, DoD STEM professionals served as table hosts and role models to the approximately 240 high school students from Quantico High School, Friendship Public Charter Schools, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Oxen Hill High School. Additionally, college students from Morgan State University’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (sponsored by the National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security) participated as “near peer” role models. The students asked many questions and posed for photographs with Dr. Watford.

Greater Washington Area Public Service Innovator of the Year Finalist

Our Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™ at
Virginia Tech, National Capital Region
was named a finalist for the Greater Washington Area Public Sector Tech Innovator of the Year on Thursday night, April 27 at The Hamilton Live in Metro Center.


(Barry Potter, Susie Armstrong, Dr. Jim Egenrieder, Andreea Sistrunk)  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

GMU / NoVA Outside School Environmental Action Conference Video

The videographers didn't make it up to the third floor to see our activities, but they captured other aspects of the event well.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Potomac School Robotics - National Champs

Congratulations to James Gillespie and Mary Muldowney Jarratt, and their high school VEX robotics team at the Potomac School (our creative robotics partner with 4th and 7th grade students).  Potomac is the new competitive robotics national champion.



Monday, April 17, 2017

A higher ed perspective on the World Smarts STEM Challenge

Video interviews and coverage from the World Smarts STEM Challenge sponsored by the Carnegie Institute in March.  This video is from the visit by the students from Africa working with their counterparts from DC, Baltimore, and Prince Georges County (MD), the day after they worked in our Thinkabit Lab.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Not STEAM or STREAM, just STEM

This is really, really good, except for this unfortunate list item: "b. When using art/reading as a pull to attract students, the STEM content gets watered downed."




The STEM acronym Science Technology Engineering & Math came to the forefront of society, not by the profession of education, but by businesses concerned about the lack of STEM graduates. Business data analysis predicted that the STEM job fields did not have replacement values for baby boomers leaving the fields. There was a drop in students choosing to study STEM (especially technology & engineering) beyond even replacement values. This raised concerns in many of the business industries.

The early 2000’s many researchers showed an increased need for STEM studies. In 2009 President Obama highlighted this in the Educate to Innovate initiative. Business collaborated with Education and thus the popularization of the STEM acronym arrived.

Since then tools such as FIRST robotics, NSTA science standards including engineering, Tufts Novel Engineering program, PBS Design Squad, etc. have informed the public and professional educators about the need for STEM. Business organizations such as Boeing, Monsanto, Master Card, and many more with a need for graduates in STEM, have tried to find ways to support the education professionals.

As curriculum was developed by professional educators, some started to incorporate art and reading into the acronym. At first this makes perfect sense. After much thought and analysis on; “Do I want to change how I present within the Professional Education Communities?” I’ve come to my own a conclusion.

I choose STEM.

             WHY?

1.      I DO NOT want to lose my art/music studios/labs/professional educators. In an effort to economize schools/districts. My fear is that art/music departments will be targeted as unnecessary.

2.      I DO NOT teach art/music. I may use an artist, such as Calder or Da Vinci, to study design/engineering processes in mechanics, kinetics, etc.  At times, I collaborate with the Professional Art Educator and they will teach the history & art techniques of the artist.

3.      I DO use the Design Engineering Processes like the art & reading professional educators. The Creativity is the same in all curriculums, not the content.

4.      As stated previously, the acronym was first coined to meet the need for people in STEM careers.

We are not facing a shortage of people within Liberal Art careers.
a.      There is an argument that the ART may bring people into the STEM fields who may not otherwise have considered them. My concern; “Is it false advertising?”
While it certainly can help your understanding of anatomy to study art when becoming a doctor, it is not a requirement. You do however, need to study, Science Technology, Engineering & Math to become a doctor. Likewise, a liberal art student it is not required to study advanced science, technology, engineering and math to complete studies.

b.      When using art/reading as a pull to attract students, the STEM content gets watered downed.
Repeatedly through discussions with my professional colleagues at the university level they have found that they have students who do not realize what it takes to become, for example, an engineer. Students are not prepared, or understand, that they have to take calculus, physics, etc. They then struggle to stay in the fields and many leave.

For those who use the STEAM & STREAM acronym I ask that you consider what the objective is in your choice. I am asking that you analyze, as I did, why you use the acronym.
As a professional educator I believe we should leave the STEAM, STREAM acronym as a marketing tool for libraries, museums, retail advertisers, etc. It is for those who do not need to concern themselves with the long term learning content objectives.

Education needs a strong STEM Content powered by “C”- Creativity.

Friday, April 7, 2017

NOVA Workforce IT Sector Planning Next Steps

The follow-up session to the Building Regional Career Pathways event on September 15, 2016 focused on how to partner together to build successful career pathways for in-demand occupations as directed by WIOA with a focus on the Greater Washington region and the Information Technology sector. Emphasis was on Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) December report on in-demand careers, skills needed by job-seekers, employer engagement and training partners to assist job-seekers on NOVA’s training options/guided career pathways.  

They are now preparing for the next phase of this work. The proposed model is intended to show how students can start at any of our organizations (Adult Ed, Workforce Development Boards, post-secondary institutions, or community-based organizations) in order to access the Regional IT Career Pathway the group will develop. The idea is that this regional pathway will serve all students: some students will have a high-level of support needed as they complete basic skills; others will access the pathway with more advanced skills. Some will enter the workforce after attaining IT fundamentals training, and may return later; still others will pursue more advanced training immediately after their initial skills-development. Along the way, they will support students with the wrap-around services available through our region-wide partners. To further develop this concept will demand input from all of our partners in order to reflect the best strategy for meeting the needs of our community.

They have five sessions in April that will last 60-90 minutes and take place via Meet Me Conference. We understand that due to scheduling constraints, a call-in option is necessary. With that in mind, please register for one or more events of your interest:

Building Regional Career Pathways: Basic Skills Assessments
Date/Time: April 18th, 10:00am-11:00am

Building Regional Career Pathways: Soft Skills
Date/Time: April 18th, 1:00PM-2:00PM

Building Regional Career Pathways: Basic IT Skills
Date/Time: April 19th, 10:00am-11:00am

Building Regional Career Pathways: Job Placement & Business Engagement
Date/Time: April 19th 1:00PM-2:00PM

Building Regional Career Pathways: Philanthropy
Date/Time: April 20th, 10:00am-11:00am