STEM

Nonprofit Mouse Launching STEM Courses, Teaching New Tech Skills

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Mouse, a New York-based nonprofit, is launching a handful of new and continuing STEM courses this fall, aimed at teaching students new skills based on cutting edge technology.

New courses include sewable technology and digital portfolios. One of the continuing courses is a partnership with Parsons School of Design and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to create assistive and adaptive technologies for people with cerebral palsy. For instance, kids will design a joystick-controlled mechanism whereby patients with cerebral palsy can mix paint, and turn an arduous, 10-20 minute task into an easy, 10-second activity.

Other innovations could involve a new breaking system for wheelchairs, and a safe laser-pointing system to warn pedestrians that a wheelchair is oncoming.

Another continuing course will be a collaboration with the national organization and STEM curricula provider, Games for Change.

“We’re going to teach the use of video games for very social purposes,” said Daniel Rabuzzi, executive director of Mouse, in an interview. “We’re going to teach [students] how to build games that address a social or community issue. As an example, a lot of students have come up with anti-bullying games, or games that deal with sexual harassment.”

A primary goal of Mouse is to empower students to use technology to solve real-world problems and make meaningful change in the world, according to the nonprofit’s website. Creating more diversity in STEM is another mission.

According to Rabuzzi and other sources, STEM fields still lack diversity, especially when it comes to women and people of color.

“We exist in no small measure to close that gap,” Rabuzzi said, “to help close the opportunity divide in technology. People of color should rightly compete for the jobs, but they’re not as well represented as they need to be. It’s a matter of civil rights and economic development. It’s a declaration of fact — diversity is sorely lacking in STEM because of overt and covert discrimination. We want to remove these barriers.”

Over the past 20 years, Mouse has created platforms and courses that have impacted 40,000 youths, Rabuzzi said. The organization’s annual budget is between $2.1 million and $2.2 million, he said.

“We create all of our own content. It works mostly in schools, libraries and maker spaces. The organization pays an annual licensing fee. An organization pays an annual licensing fee, which is well below our cost of production. We make up difference by securing foundation grants.”

Rabuzzi said his organization is growing its presence in California, with almost 100 schools using its platforms and curricula during and after classtime. Mouse’s goal is to grow even more actively in Southern California.

Mouse is also experimenting with virtual reality, and plans to have VR projects for students in the near future, Rabuzzi said.

For more information on Mouse, visit the organization’s website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at rchang@1105media.com.

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