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NYC's Mouse Corps Gives Students Tech Design Boost

High school program introduces students to a prized combination of technology, engineering and design skills.

In recognition of his leadership, the Mouse staff recommended him for inclusion in the more selective Mouse Corps program. In addition to teaching technical skills, Mouse Corps tries to address social needs. For his 10th grade project, he did Java programming as part of a team that developed an Android app they called Gar-Blog -- a paper-toss game to encourage subway riders to document and submit the location of unsanitary conditions to the MTA.

In his junior and senior years of high school, he worked on the SMART Chair, a wheelchair designed for the blind and visually impaired that uses circuit boards and sensors to detect distance, and Extend-a-Arm, a prototype of a device for United Cerebral Palsy of NYC that helps people with disabilities pick up items out of their reach. Although there was also a software programming component of these projects, Pereda found he was particularly attracted to the challenges of electrical and mechanical engineering and design.

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, he served as an IT intern at two New York City Law firms, Sullivan & Cromwell and Davis Polk & Wardwell. "There was no getting coffees or getting photocopies from the printer," he said, but plenty of hands-on work with the IT staff and the attorneys.

Although Pereda is determined to be an engineer, Lesser said other students with ambitions for medical school or other disciplines also find value in the program, which teaches them about the possibilities of technology to change their chosen field.

One student was originally determined to be a police officer, like his brother, Lesser said. "He's still really fired up about criminal justice, but now he's thinking about cybersecurity and those sorts of things. This is not necessarily about changing young people's minds about how they see themselves."

Yet with technology changing so much in so many fields, Mouse aims to give students "practical skills for whatever comes next," Lesser said.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.

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