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Digital Divide Nonprofit MOUSE Looks Back and Forward

By Elizabeth Woyke     May 21, 2013

Digital Divide Nonprofit MOUSE Looks Back and Forward

It’sbeen a fertile few years for youth development nonprofits with a techie bent.So many groups want to teach kids how to code that EdSurge just published a guide.

Ofcourse, that was far from the case in 1997, when MOUSE began operating. Originally foundedto bring Internet access and computers to underserved schools, the NewYork-based nonprofit shifted gears in 2000 and started teaching tech skills to middleand high school students. Today, MOUSE trains students in 377 schools acrossthe country and runs a yearlong afterschool tech design program for about 25New York City high schoolers.

OnMonday, MOUSE celebrated its longevity and evolution with a 15thanniversary bash at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers. Around 400 people showed up,representing technology, business, politics and education sectors. MakerBot CEO BrePettis, angel investor Joanne Wilson and New York City Council SpeakerChristine Quinn received awards for their support of MOUSE and gave speeches.

Despitethe big names in attendance, MOUSE students were the event’s stars. More than30 came and formed a makerspace where they demo’edprojects. The most interesting work came from MOUSE Corps, MOUSE’s NewYork tech design program, which develops a new set of socially-conscious technologieseach year. 

This year, MOUSE collaborated with United Cerebral Palsy of New YorkCity to create assistive devices. Projects included ‘Mixing Buddy’, a programmablestand that holds a hand mixer and bowl steady for cooking; ‘Art2’, an assistivepainting and drawing device; ‘Joypix’, a digital camera apparatus that accommodatesspecial motor needs; and ‘Extend-a-arm,’ an electronic claw device that attachesto crutches and wheelchairs to retrieve objects from the floor.

The makerspace also featured robotics, serious games and 3D printing projects.MOUSE covers those topics in its MOUSE Squad program. MOUSE Squad primarilytrains students to act as their schools’ tech helpdesks, but has expanded inrecent years to include robotics, circuitry and gamedesign. MOUSE Squad members like the hands-on activities and MOUSE likes havingmultiple ways to teach real-world problem-solving.

MOUSEthinks of itself as more STEAM than STEM. (The 'A' standing for arts.) It wants to cultivate life andwork smarts rather than specific technical skills. “The tools we use are oftenleading-edge technologies, but MOUSE is about inquiry-based, human-centereddesign,” said Executive Director Daniel Rabuzzi in an interview.

To create their assistive technologies, MOUSE Corps members interviewed people with cerebral palsy about their daily routines. The students also did empathy exercises to better understand the challenges of limitedmobility. After brainstorming project ideas, they spent several months creatingprototypes in small groups and refining their designs.

MOUSEsupporters believe this holistic approach prepares young people to not justenter, but also lead the workforce. Christine Quinn said she expected to see MOUSEgrads become CEOs within the next 15 years. Joanne Wilson called MOUSE members “thenext generation of entrepreneurs.” Rabuzzi said MOUSE grads would create companiesthat will eventually employ thousands of people.

MOUSE members weren't outlining their 15-year-plans at the event, but said they would do something technology-related. Asked about likely college majors, the teens mentioned aerospace engineering,computer science, industrial design and product design. 

MOUSE’s15-year ambition is to extend its reach, in the U.S. and abroad. It currentlyworks with about 4,250 students. At the anniversary event, MOUSE Chairman BrianJ. Miller declared, “We want a MOUSE program in every underserved school acrossthe country and beyond!” Wilson suggested MOUSE should be mandatory in Americanmiddle and high schools.

Tofund its growth, MOUSE is courting support from technology companies both largeand small. Best Buy, which received an award at the event, has given MOUSE morethan $2 million over the past 10 years via its Children’s Foundation. Makerbot hasdonated 30 3D printers to MOUSE since 2011. (The printers teach kids “how toinnovate and iterate,” said Pettis at the event, adding, “What I see here inspiresme to do more.”) MOUSE is also interested in licensing its online curricular tools to companies.

Tosignificantly expand MOUSE, schools will need to pitch in. MOUSE charges schools$1,000 a year to be part of MOUSE Squad. Schools can often cover the cost withgrant money but it’s up to them to apply for grants.

Oneissue for MOUSE is schools have more technology resources than ever. MOUSE pointsout that MOUSE Squad helps schools by training students in IT. In some schools,MOUSE Squad is the only tech support. In others, it augments professional techsupport. Either way, it can save money and teachers' sanity. 

Teachersat the event said MOUSE also stands out as an edtech tool. “You get curriculumand a national community of users,” said Lou Lahana, who has used MOUSE to teach 3D design, photo and video skills to middle schoolers at The Island School in Manhattan. (Some lucky MOUSE schools,including Lahana’s, also get MakerBot printers.) Without MOUSE, “you would haveto come up with most of this yourself,” said Lahana. 

Community

Digital Divide Nonprofit MOUSE Looks Back and Forward

By Elizabeth Woyke     May 21, 2013

Digital Divide Nonprofit MOUSE Looks Back and Forward

It’sbeen a fertile few years for youth development nonprofits with a techie bent.So many groups want to teach kids how to code that EdSurge just published a guide.

Ofcourse, that was far from the case in 1997, when MOUSE began operating. Originally foundedto bring Internet access and computers to underserved schools, the NewYork-based nonprofit shifted gears in 2000 and started teaching tech skills to middleand high school students. Today, MOUSE trains students in 377 schools acrossthe country and runs a yearlong afterschool tech design program for about 25New York City high schoolers.

OnMonday, MOUSE celebrated its longevity and evolution with a 15thanniversary bash at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers. Around 400 people showed up,representing technology, business, politics and education sectors. MakerBot CEO BrePettis, angel investor Joanne Wilson and New York City Council SpeakerChristine Quinn received awards for their support of MOUSE and gave speeches.

Despitethe big names in attendance, MOUSE students were the event’s stars. More than30 came and formed a makerspace where they demo’edprojects. The most interesting work came from MOUSE Corps, MOUSE’s NewYork tech design program, which develops a new set of socially-conscious technologieseach year. 

This year, MOUSE collaborated with United Cerebral Palsy of New YorkCity to create assistive devices. Projects included ‘Mixing Buddy’, a programmablestand that holds a hand mixer and bowl steady for cooking; ‘Art2’, an assistivepainting and drawing device; ‘Joypix’, a digital camera apparatus that accommodatesspecial motor needs; and ‘Extend-a-arm,’ an electronic claw device that attachesto crutches and wheelchairs to retrieve objects from the floor.

The makerspace also featured robotics, serious games and 3D printing projects.MOUSE covers those topics in its MOUSE Squad program. MOUSE Squad primarilytrains students to act as their schools’ tech helpdesks, but has expanded inrecent years to include robotics, circuitry and gamedesign. MOUSE Squad members like the hands-on activities and MOUSE likes havingmultiple ways to teach real-world problem-solving.

MOUSEthinks of itself as more STEAM than STEM. (The 'A' standing for arts.) It wants to cultivate life andwork smarts rather than specific technical skills. “The tools we use are oftenleading-edge technologies, but MOUSE is about inquiry-based, human-centereddesign,” said Executive Director Daniel Rabuzzi in an interview.

To create their assistive technologies, MOUSE Corps members interviewed people with cerebral palsy about their daily routines. The students also did empathy exercises to better understand the challenges of limitedmobility. After brainstorming project ideas, they spent several months creatingprototypes in small groups and refining their designs.

MOUSEsupporters believe this holistic approach prepares young people to not justenter, but also lead the workforce. Christine Quinn said she expected to see MOUSEgrads become CEOs within the next 15 years. Joanne Wilson called MOUSE members “thenext generation of entrepreneurs.” Rabuzzi said MOUSE grads would create companiesthat will eventually employ thousands of people.

MOUSE members weren't outlining their 15-year-plans at the event, but said they would do something technology-related. Asked about likely college majors, the teens mentioned aerospace engineering,computer science, industrial design and product design. 

MOUSE’s15-year ambition is to extend its reach, in the U.S. and abroad. It currentlyworks with about 4,250 students. At the anniversary event, MOUSE Chairman BrianJ. Miller declared, “We want a MOUSE program in every underserved school acrossthe country and beyond!” Wilson suggested MOUSE should be mandatory in Americanmiddle and high schools.

Tofund its growth, MOUSE is courting support from technology companies both largeand small. Best Buy, which received an award at the event, has given MOUSE morethan $2 million over the past 10 years via its Children’s Foundation. Makerbot hasdonated 30 3D printers to MOUSE since 2011. (The printers teach kids “how toinnovate and iterate,” said Pettis at the event, adding, “What I see here inspiresme to do more.”) MOUSE is also interested in licensing its online curricular tools to companies.

Tosignificantly expand MOUSE, schools will need to pitch in. MOUSE charges schools$1,000 a year to be part of MOUSE Squad. Schools can often cover the cost withgrant money but it’s up to them to apply for grants.

Oneissue for MOUSE is schools have more technology resources than ever. MOUSE pointsout that MOUSE Squad helps schools by training students in IT. In some schools,MOUSE Squad is the only tech support. In others, it augments professional techsupport. Either way, it can save money and teachers' sanity. 

Teachersat the event said MOUSE also stands out as an edtech tool. “You get curriculumand a national community of users,” said Lou Lahana, who has used MOUSE to teach 3D design, photo and video skills to middle schoolers at The Island School in Manhattan. (Some lucky MOUSE schools,including Lahana’s, also get MakerBot printers.) Without MOUSE, “you would haveto come up with most of this yourself,” said Lahana. 

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