Originally interested in Coded by Kids because of the project-based, competitive nature of our programming, high school junior Tahsin Z. has taken advantage of every opportunity over the past year — excelling every step of the way.
“I am drawn to working in tech because it is a powerful medium for change. There is nothing more fulfilling, in my opinion, than building something to solve a problem and handing a user that something and being met with joy and gratitude for your time and effort.”
Starting his CBK journey by entering the 2022 Ctrl+Shift coding competition, Tahsin then joined our Tech & Innovation Internship program, was hired by Draft Studios, and most recently competed in the Innovation League.
Taking Coding Skills to the Next Level with Ctrl+Shift
During his first CBK program, Tahsin was able to test his creativity and technical skills. “Ctrl+Shift was particularly exciting for me because of the creativity and freedom it allowed for. The guidelines for Ctrl+Shift are clear but not exactly strict.”
Tahsin impressed our judges and won first place with his project Trees@Philly. The educational website hopes to combat deforestation and teaches about trees in our city in an interactive way. “I spent days before writing even a single line of code trying to come up with a good idea and when I eventually hit the idea of Trees@Philly, I knew it could be something great, all I had to do was execute.”
Once he had the idea, motivated by his excitement, Tahsin immediately started working. “I went into the project with a sort of careless confidence and ‘figure-it-out-later’ mentality.” Building as much as he could until he hit a roadblock, Tahsin then researched how to continue and keep momentum — allowing him to learn quickly by doing. “Developing this skill was crucial to my abilities as a programmer and by far the biggest lesson I learned from competing in Ctrl+Shift. If an aspiring Ctrl+Shift competitor is reading this, I would advise they take the same route: choose a project that is just outside your skill level and just start working, you’ll learn the necessary skills along the way.”
Gaining New Experiences with the Tech & Innovation Internship
Coming off his Ctrl+Shift win, Tahsin joined the Tech & Innovation interns who spent the summer working together to solve problems, gain valuable advice from mentors and learn from our partners during site visits and workshops.
He was the Lead Developer for our high school group — Team Zygotes — who created a Chrome extension that keeps students motivated with the gamification of learning. Prodo is a tool that harnesses the connection that kids develop with their digital pet, which levels up as the student completes their school work.
“This was an incredibly valuable experience because it forced me to think critically about areas that I may not have otherwise been exposed to so early.”
Tahsin really appreciated how the internship challenged them. “Our experience wasn’t overshadowed by the fact that we’re high schoolers…I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but they sort of pushed us into the water. Not so much that we started drowning, but just so much that we knew the fear of drowning.”
Building Teamwork Skills with Draft Studios
After the internship program ended, Tahsin was part of a group of interns hired to Draft Studios — a web development agency that is comprised of talented high school and college students. The opportunity has given Tahsin and the other students valuable real world experiences in the tech world.
“Working for Draft Studios has been a learning experience which has forced me to reshape how I think about teamwork and development as a whole.”
In addition to challenging himself by working on larger projects than he would tackle on his own and learning new skills, Tahsin has loved working with his fellow students. “My favorite part … by far has to be collaborating with the incredible team of like-minded high school and college students. Everyone on the team, due to our age and interests, can relate to one another and find a joy in working with each other.”
“Because of my time at Draft Studios, I know that when I enter a company after finishing school, I will be ready with the right tools, skills, and mindset to contribute to my fullest ability.”
Growing Entrepreneurship Skills with Innovation League
Hoping to build on his previous CBK experience and learn about the interconnection of tech and business, Tahsin entered the second Innovation League — a competition for creative high school students who are looking to build their entrepreneurship skills.
Along with his partner Tino K., Tahsin won the league with their project Orbit, a platform that brings together high school students, nonprofits and donors. Students are able to use the platform to find volunteering and educational opportunities shared by non-profits. Once the students find an opportunity and start participating, they earn points which they can redeem for scholarships and stipends provided by donors.
“Participating in the Innovation League has further advanced my interest in the business side of tech and has led me to look for problems I can solve using my skills as a programmer.”
The Innovation League tested Tahsin’s ability to create a solution based on a client’s problems. “As a programmer I normally build what appeals to me but during the Innovation League, we were tasked with considering someone else’s life, beliefs, and wants. The extra variables made everything a bit more difficult but going through the process was really fun and valuable.”
Advice for Tech Interested Teens
After a year full of tech and innovation education and experiences with Coded by Kids, Tahsin has some advice for teens who want to get into tech. “I want other teens to know that the tech industry is huge and ever expanding and that everyone has a place in it. Technological advancements are paving the path for so many of our milestones as a human race and getting involved is both a great career choice and commitment to one’s community.”
His main piece of advice would be not to overthink it. “Coding and tech in general can seem overwhelming but I would say to just get started and try to have fun. Every new roadblock is an opportunity to learn something new, if you’re uncomfortable sometimes but still having fun that means you’re making really good progress.”
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