Steve Mollenkopf is chief executive officer of Qualcomm Incorporated and serves on the Company’s board of directors. Mollenkopf began his Qualcomm career as an engineer more than 20 years ago and since then has helped define and implement Qualcomm’s strategy and technologies, propelling smartphones and mobile technology into the mainstream. During Mollenkopf’s tenure as president and chief operating officer, Qualcomm became a leader in mobile technology, including computing, graphics and multimedia. The Company also expanded its 3G and 4G modem leadership position under Mollenkopf’s guidance.
Mollenkopf supports Qualcomm’s commitment to fostering STEM education at all levels, including initiatives like the Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™ and FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit organization focused on inspiring young people’s interest in science and technology.
Prior to his role as president and COO, Mollenkopf led the Company’s chipset business. Under his leadership Qualcomm became the world’s largest mobile chipset supplier and a global leader in WCDMA, LTE and smartphones.
He also spearheaded Qualcomm’s acquisition of Atheros, which helped expand the Company’s business far beyond smartphones, and accelerated the adoption of Qualcomm’s technologies in new segments.
Mollenkopf is a published IEEE author and holds patents in areas such as power estimation and measurement, multi-standard transmitters, and wireless communication transceiver technology. Mollenkopf serves as chairman of the Global Semiconductor Alliance and as a member of the board of directors for the Semiconductor Industry Association.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech and a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.
Qualcomm Incorporated is a world leader in mobile computing, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and next-generation wireless technologies. For more than 30 years, Qualcomm’s ideas and inventions have fueled major technology trends, transforming the way people work, live and play. Qualcomm is committed to encouraging STEM education for students of all ages, expanding opportunities for underrepresented students, and reducing the engineering gender gap. Qualcomm does this through programs like the Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™, a makerspace where students from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds access hands-on experiences in engineering. Qualcomm also supports FIRST globally as a sponsor and strategic partner, providing employee volunteering and mentorship, and implementing new technologies into the competitions. Additionally, Qualcomm supports the Institute of International Education and engages with other organizations to advance the Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) program, a Clinton Global Initiative commitment that links girls to university scholarships in engineering, leadership and technical opportunities.
More than 6,500 middle school students have received a crash course in coding in robotics in the past two years, thanks to Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™. This makerspace—part engineering lab and part art studio—encourages 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to collaborate, invent and present their robotic creations (or “Robo-crafts”) while experiencing hands-on learning in an integrated, student-centered environment.
Qualcomm created this program because we are inventing the technologies that will shape tomorrow, and we don’t take invention or inventors for granted.
It’s easy to assume that technology will always march on, and that our devices will always get better, faster, and cheaper. But we need skilled technologists to make that happen. And there are not enough of them. Although STEM jobs are growing fast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 1.2 million high-skilled positions will be unfilled by 2018 due to a shortage of qualified workers.
At Qualcomm, we know that STEM education is essential for the future of innovation, and that it is critical to dedicate resources to nurture STEM education at all levels. If we are to have a chance of succeeding in addressing this STEM challenge, it’s necessary that the private sector, government and educators work together.
At the Thinkabit Lab, we see every day how collaboration pays off. Located at our San Diego headquarters, Thinkabit provides middle school students the opportunity to gain exposure to different types of engineering and non-engineering careers, needed to support technology companies. By collaborating with school district superintendents, principals and teachers, we make sure that the sparkle that Thinkabit ignites in the students, remains alive and continues growing when they go back to their schools.
There are so many success stories we can tell about our students! At one school, an elective robotics class went from 13% to 40% girls’ attendance after a Thinkabit Lab experience. Students who have been disengaged in school, come back energized and inspired to become engineers. We have hosted classes for students with special needs, and they have the same engaging experience and achieve the same great results as the rest of our students.
The Thinkabit Lab also hosts our Qcamp for Girls in STEM, a program developed in collaboration with the Institute of International Education and the University of California, Berkeley. Qcamp aims to inspire middle school girls to remain interested in STEM as they go through middle school; this is often the time when girls lose interest in STEM-related topics. The first cohort of Qcampers attended in 2014, returned to the program in 2015, and will come back in 2016 for their third consecutive two-week camp. Throughout the school year we connect with them for other engaging activities to keep their interest high. Preliminary results show that Qcamp helps girls develop the dispositions, practices and knowledge that enable success in future STEM learning.
Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab has received recognition and acknowledgement outside of Qualcomm. The Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, called Thinkabit a model to increase the exposure to STEM education and careers, and has encouraged other major companies in the region to replicate five labs inspired by it. Schools, libraries and other companies are reaching out to us to adopt our model in their facilities.
Knowing that there’s a great opportunity to reach more students, we kicked off the expansion of the Thinkabit Lab to initially three schools in San Diego. The expansion is not only about creating a space that resembles the one in our headquarters, but we also work with the schools by collaborating with teachers on content and coursework development and sharing best practices.
Currently, we are in the process of expanding our Thinkabit Lab to the National Capital Region through a collaboration with Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education and School of Education, bringing the lab to the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church, Virginia.
At an international level, our offices in Shanghai and Beijing hosted Thinkabit experiences. In Shanghai, we worked with a local non-governmental organization, Shanghai Adream Charitable Foundation, and invited students from 12 schools to participate. In Beijing, we held a Lab for students from Dandelion Middle School, which serves children of migrant workers. At both experiences, Qualcomm employees volunteered as instructors, and students practiced coding and created their own robotic crafts. After their experience, many students expressed interest in the possibility of pursuing engineering careers.
Our plans to expand the Lab also includes an online component to give kids who attended the Thinkabit Lab a chance to access resources and reconnect with their Lab experience to inspire their ongoing interest in STEM. We are also providing access to our programs through the University of California, San Diego, which will share Thinkabit content via UCTV’s STEAM Channel.
There is still much to be done, but we are going in the right direction. We know that the Thinkabit Lab model works, and that we are having a meaningful, long-lasting impact. The students that are visiting us today, will be the inventors of tomorrow. We know we are affecting change in our STEM future!