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May 01

Youth Tech

Posted on May 1, 2019 at 3:41 PM by Melinda Mayo

I recently had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, which got me to thinking about the opportunities that exist for area youth to discover how they can get involved in the sciences and technology.  This week’s post will focus on a few of these.


The Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab is a partnership between Qualcomm (an international technology company) and Virginia Tech, with support from AEP and others.  The lab provides a chance for area sixth graders to learn about robotics, the Internet of Things, and a great deal more about technology.  Students learn to work as part of a team through hands-on experiments, culminating in the construction of a product designed to solve a real-world problem.  

Prior to its official opening, students from Franklin County participated in the experience and a couple of them spoke at the grand opening.  You could hear the excitement and creativity in their voices as they spoke of their time at the lab.  It was inspiring to see what they had created and that spark of possibility ignited by the experience.  In a future increasingly built around creativity and the harnessing of technology, this is a welcome addition to the area.

Books to STEM

The new Melrose Branch Library, scheduled to open later this summer, will be the city’s largest branch library and, in addition to thousands of books, dozens of computers, etc., the new library will include a STEM lab.  This lab will allow area youth the opportunity to learn and conduct hands-on experiments with science, technology, and mathematics.  With the creativity of the Library staff and the presence of so many technology-based companies and health care providers in the community, the possibilities are endless!  I look forward to seeing what the final lab entails and watching the students engage in its offerings.

Not Your Grandfather’s Shop Class

Roanoke City Public School’s Roanoke Technical Education Center (ROTEC) has long been a provider of technical education for area youth.  Most recently, ROTEC has offered training in robotics, coding, web design, health and medical science, and pre-engineering.  The learning opportunities afforded by ROTEC are top-notch, resulting in a great learning experience for the students that includes regional and national competitions and, most importantly, preparation for a bright future.

These are but a few of the amazing science- and tech-based learning opportunities that exist for youth in our community.  With the continued offerings of these types of jobs in our region and elsewhere in the nation, this training is invaluable.  Perhaps most important is how these programs introduce students to possibilities they may have never imagined—the idea that someone from Roanoke can work in the world of brain research, autonomous vehicles, or robotics is all made possible.  The future is full of possibilities and these programs are vital. Who knows, maybe the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Marian Diamond may just come from Roanoke!

— Bob Cowell


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