By Jay Solly

On a bright spring Saturday, area high school and middle school students gathered at an emerging tech hub in North Brooklyn for a two-day student “hackathon” partnered with BNY Mellon, Microsoft and the Bushwick Generator. Organized by students from Brooklyn Technical High School, “Technight” is the first coding and tech event from the student-led nonprofit, TechHacks.

Drawing students from NJ, PA and throughout NYC schools, some 100 coders ages 13 to 18 hunkered down in teams over laptops and XL pizza boxes to tackle coding challenges, learn from and mentor their peers, and vie for prizes and opportunities such as gift cards, headphones, Raspberry Pi mini-computers and internship interviews at major technology and financial services firms.

Photo credit: Michael Potash

The free event was the culmination of months of planning and development by student leaders Matthew Bilik, a sophomore, senior Karina Popovich and their team at Brooklyn Tech. As part of their “Mechatronics” team, a robotics and coding program, these student technologists teach beginner programming to elementary and middle school students.

“Computer science will be in all of our futures, as coding solves pervasive problems, but we want to offer incentives to enter,” said Bilik. “This event is great because I get to talk to so many diverse students from different schools.”

Bilik taught himself coding at age 10 and today knows Python, JavaScript and “some others.” He also teaches JavaScript at Nano Hacker Academy for tech-enthusiastic youth.

“The best age to learn coding is any age, it can be fun for the whole family,” he added.

Ben Royce, head of performance data science at Google, was among the event’s keynote speakers. Photo credit: Photo credit: Michael Potash

And corporate sponsors, eager for more qualified technology workers, would agree. BNY Mellon’s Haley Daniels and Ting Pan attended the opening day events to recruit for their Summer Technology High School Associate Program, a secondary school internship that upon successful completion leads to a college internship or a full-time position in a technology career in financial services.

“Demand is staggering, with 50,000 more jobs available than workers,” said Daniels. “These students are so tech-centric and have such a confidence and comfort with technology. We are delighted to be a part of this.”

Pan, one of the internship program coordinators, feels very enthusiastic about the future for the technology labor pool.

“Millennials may have come of age during the advent of the Internet, but it’s a different world for this generation as they are immersed and grasp technology completely,” said Pan.

Unfazed by the demands of the jam-packed weekend, she shared what’s next for her.

Some 100 coders ages 13 to 18 hunkered down in teams over laptops to tackle coding challenges, learn from and mentor their peers. Photo credit: Michael Potash

“College. Sure, college,” said Popovich. “But I’m interested in entrepreneurship and the marriage between technology and small business. I’ve been exploring starting my own company building on 3D printing. I’d tell you more, but you’ll just have to wait.”

We won’t have to wait too long, as many of these young technologists will likely go on to define and build the emerging technology hub here in North Brooklyn.

For more information about BYN Mellon’s high school internship, email Ting.Pan@bnymellon.com

Jay Solly is a former congressional and gubernatorial staffer who co-founded the Brooklyn 501(c)(3), Sustainable United Neighborhoods. He also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Moore Street Alliance.

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