Feaster Charter is One of Three in County Tabbed for ‘Thinkabit Lab’

Qualcomm expands its STEM commitment in region’s schools  

Mae L. Feaster Charter’s Engineering Lab is one of three middle schools in the county to be formally named a Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™, replicating the technology giant’s hands-on lab in Sorrento Valley that engages youth in technology and engineering careers.

Feaster’s Engineering Lab opened last year and has received a host of kudos and awards for its Qualcomm-inspired approach to instruction. For example, Feaster third grade students learn about torsion, tension, compression, and shear. Upper grade students learn to code for “Arduino,” an open-source electronics platform intended for making interactive projects. Feaster students from kindergarten through eighth grade are taught the value of working with a team, revising an idea when it fails, and the importance of understanding design.

Now, the school’s collaboration with Qualcomm is evolving to new, exciting heights. Qualcomm announced at a news conference on December 3, 2015 its expansion of the Thinkabit Lab to three schools: Lewis Middle School, Vista Innovation and Design Academy (VIDA) and Feaster Charter School. The expansion reinforces Qualcomm’s commitment to inspire young generations to explore and pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. For Feaster, this means its existing space can be formally adorned with the Thinkabit branding.

In addition to the prestige that brings, the Thinkabit designation deepens the school’s existing partnership and portends future collaborative opportunities, said CVESD Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.

“Feaster’s Lab celebrates students’ creativity,” Escobedo said. “The expanded partnership with Qualcomm will help each district and the Company contribute to San Diego’s development as a center of innovation and educational excellence.

“We’ve witnessed an amazing job the labs have accomplished in infusing the arts, as well as science, technology, social studies, engineering and math into the curriculum. By fostering critical thinking and reasoning skills at a young age, the program can make a life-changing impact on students.”

School staff and administrators have been as inspired as the students, Escobedo said.

“Our work with Qualcomm started at Feaster Charter, which is a school with one of the highest numbers of English Learners, and where close to 90 percent of students come from low-income families and where the neighborhood has one of the highest crime rates,” Escobedo said. “Yet, when we review the test scores, we find that Feaster is a school that exceeds expectations. Feaster students surpass county and state averages…and Qualcomm has been a contributing factor. Not only are our students ready for college, but with the focus on relevant instruction, they are becoming career ready—not just college ready.”

The dedication to innovation is reflected in Feaster’s awards, such as the inspire Award in the 2015 Innovation in Education program, hosted by the Classroom of the Future Foundation.​

Since the first Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab opened in March 2014 at the Company’s headquarters in San Diego, more than 3,000 students from approximately 35 San Diego schools including Feaster have been exposed to STEM professions; 1,500 “robo-crafts” have been built and presented; 1,300 community and industry professionals have visited, and 230

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(L-R) CVESD Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D., Bill Bold, senior vice president for government affairs of Qualcomm Inc., San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Devin Vodicka, Superintendent of Vista School District, and Cindy Marten, Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District 

teachers have observed and actively participated in the lab. By opening the three labs within the middle school campuses themselves, Qualcomm is helping ensure that more students and teachers have regular access to dedicated space that encourages creativity, collaboration and the development of critical skills necessary for the 21st century classroom.

 

“Qualcomm believes it is our responsibility to increase awareness about STEM career paths and inspire and encourage students to pursue STEM-related education,” said Bill Bold, senior vice president for government affairs of Qualcomm Inc. “Qualcomm is proud to help San Diego middle schools fill the STEM gap by replicating our Thinkabit Lab and providing teachers and students with regular access to unique, real-world engineering projects.”

Francisco Velasco, Feaster Executive Director, said his teachers are embracing 21st Century skills, and how those skills can be applied to the classroom. “It is through their efforts that we have achieved so well,” Velasco said. “It starts in the classroom. It is a credit to our teachers, kids—even our parents. We are really changing how the community thinks about fields like electronics, robotics and what those career paths can mean to the future of their children.”

Cassie Santos, Feaster’s engineering teacher, observed a change in her students once the lab opened.

“Their problem-solving skills increased drastically,” Santos said. “They don’t give up as easily as they would before. That productive struggle is coming through in their regular classes. They are working harder and not getting stuck on a problem and giving up. Or they see problems and come up with solutions without even being prompted. That cross-curricular aspect has been amazing.”

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