It’s hard to believe, but there are still kids out there who haven’t even use the word “technology.”
Zainab Oni didn’t greeting the word into her vocabulary until ninth grade. She was 12 years old when her family left Laos, Nigeria, and immigrated to New York City, after her mom passed away. She was in search of new opportunities to make a life for herself.
Luckily, she soon detected something “ve called the” Mouse Design League, a unique after-school program that teaches kids how to explore technology in new ways who are interested in pressing social issues .
It was then and there at Hudson High School of Learning that her future began to take shape.
“I didn’t realize how formative those years were at the time — I was just going to this program on Tuesdays, ” she says today.
But, looking back, she knows: “I genuinely wouldn’t be where I was without Mouse.”
Mouse programs go beyond basic technological training and assistance students to actually understand what it means to build something as part of a team and to improve the well-being of people around them. The know-how is one thing, but the “who” and “why” are the parts that stimulate the technology valuable .
Mouse is more than just another STEM outreach program for students. It’s a hands-on opportunity to change the world.
“We empower all students to create with technology to solve real both problems and construct meaningful change in our world, ” explains Marc Lesser, the senior director of learning and design. “We are committed to creating more diversity in STEM and opening a chance for students from underserved communities across the country.”
For students like Oni, that means expending their after-school hours fabricating a wrist-mounted sensor to help people who are blind or visually impaired identify and locate the different foods on their plates , for example.
“Through Mouse, I learned about technology, but also so much more about being a great person, ” Oni says. “Mouse taught me to think outside of myself and how I could construct life better for other people.”
“Technology changes wholly who we call neighbours, and how we think of widening our passion and empathy for the world around us, ” says Lesser.
But you can’t generate technology that improves lives without including all those lives in the conversation.
Mouse is doing what they can to bridge that gap too, since any good technologist knows that you can’t solve a problem you don’t know how to see.
Sometimes, that can be as literal as representation. As Oni says, “When you assure people that are doing it that look like you, it attains you feel that you can do it too.”
Black and Latin Americans comprise nearly 30 % of the U.S. population — but according to Mouse, they make up less than half of that percentage of the country’s computing workforce.
Similarly, women only represent about 12% of the engineering workforce, despite being half the population. But at Mouse? 44% of the students they serve are black or Latin Americans, and 39% of them are females . The vast majority come from low-income households as well.
We can’t wait for the future to make a brighter, more equitable world — but we do have to wait a bit as the minds at Mouse engineer the next stage of change right now.
Today, Zainab Oni is a student at University of Virginia. But she was invited to the White House before she even finished high school.
While her analyzes are focused mainly on political and social suppose, the maker skills and hacker hunches she developed at Mouse are a central part of that , which is why she still volunteers and gives back when she can.
“No matter what I do, I’ll always want to make a difference for people, ” she says. “Mouse taught me to believe in myself and to generate something that will have a lasting impact.”
Mouse taught Oni to see the problems and to think outside the box, use her hands-on technical knowledge to find new answers . Imagine the positive impact it can have if more people learned to engineer a better tomorrow.
You can help support Mouse by joining their network and bringing their projects to your local learning centre. All you need to get started can be found here.