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Rego Park School Welcomes Students With New Software Engineering Program

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 9, 2013 1:57pm | Updated on September 9, 2013 3:52pm
 Program seeks to prepare students for jobs in the tech sector.
JHS 157 in Rego Park Introduces Software Engineering Program
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QUEENS — Maybe the next Bill Gates will be from Rego Park.

A new pilot program in software engineering debuted at J.H.S. 157 Stephen A. Halsey in Rego Park Monday, part of a citywide initiative to boost technology education in schools.

Owen Smith, 11, from Kew Gardens said he was hoping to be among the students chosen for the new course, which rolled out in 20 schools citywide.

“I’m really interested in engineering as a career and I heard that it was a really good school,” said Owen, who wants to be an engineer or an architect.

He said a strong technology program was what attracted him to the school, located four subway stops away.

"I also expect a lot more homework," said Owen, who previously attended P.S. 101, an elementary school in Forest Hills.

The grant that the school received from the Department of Education will allow the course to be taught in one class for the next 3 years.

That class will be chosen within the next several days from among the school's 6th grade technology classes, said Vincent Suraci, principal of J.H.S. 157.

But Suraci said he wants the school, which received an A grade from the DOE last school year, to expand the program to all five technology classes within the next few weeks.

Suraci said he introduced a technology program at the school about 7 years ago, in which students learn how to design their own video games and new computer programs. To enroll in the school becauce of its technology program, kids commute from as far as Jamaica, Suraci said.

But the new pilot course, he said, will allow them to go even further in the technology field.

As part of the new course, Suraci said, the kids will be “working with programs such as Scratch, Lego Robotics, Arduino Kids, Paper Circuits and mobile apps.”

“It will also enable us to introduce coding and other areas of technology,” he said.

According to the DOE, the course will also cover embedded electronics, web design and programming, e-textiles, robotics, animation, mobile computing, digital fabrication and 3-D printing.

Suraci said since he got to the school about 9 years ago, his goal was to prepare students for the current job market.

When the school was built in the 1940s, he said, “preparing students for the workforce meant metal and wood shops, and the trades."

“Now they need science, mathematics and technology,” Suraci said.

Lori Stahl-Van Brackle, the technology teacher, said she prepared a new curriculum after she had participated in a special training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology this summer.

She said the goal is to use “computers as creative tools, to create things like movies, video games and virtual worlds, as opposed to just doing PowerPoint and Excel.”

The software engineering pilot program launched this fall in 20 middle and high schools, including Brooklyn Tech and Mark Twain I.S. 239 for the Gifted and Talented, serving about 1,000 students. The DOE said it would like for the program to incude 3,500 students by 2016.