Brace Yourselves, the Nano Hacker Squad is Poised for World Domination

'The Nano Hacker Squad'... Cute name, right? When I first met this intelligent crew of six smart youngsters, they were of the ages 8-13, and hailing from Westchester to WIlliamsburg to the Far Rockaways. 

They originally met while participating in the saturday afternoon coding sessions organized by Coder Dojo NYC, (which meets about once a month here at ThoughtWorks). Given that each of the youngsters was finding success and their curiosity growing, these kids decided to band together and organize The Nano Hacker Squad. They would meet twice per week and build upon their coding knowledge.

Not only did they come up with one of the most unique (read adorable) names for their group, but at this point they were learning to code in HTML, Javascript, CSS, and about to be the youngest team ever to compete in The Big Apps Challenge, NYC's globally recognized competition that recruits the sharpest minds in tech and innovation to tackle our city's biggest challenges. 

With the loyal mentorship of Pedro HaBen Sussmen  and Ricky Cheng, as well as their little brothers, parents, and grand parents, the Nano Hackers tinkered in online exercises, ordered countless pepperoni pizzas, and learned how to develop and launch their own apps. Success has been seen in their entry for Big Apps, Food Compass, which finds healthy food options for commuters, and Knightly Moves, a quirky chess game which sprouted from the mind of Kiera. They have exemplified the future of what our industry should be, and if they continue on this track, these are the kids to watch for–the next generation of innovative technologists who are ambitious enough to conquer the world.

Though the tangible accomplishments of the Nano Hackers can be touted, and tweeted about, I think the real win for our community of passionate technologists is the personal and emotional growth of these kids. Towards the beginning, when we barely knew each others' names, their voices and actions were yielding and meek. Because of the immense amount of support and guidance from Pedro and their families, the personal relationships between the Nano Hackers grew beyond differences in age, knowledge, and socioeconomic status. Before long, they were assertive in their opinions were able to collaborate and debate, and claim ownership over their ambitious projects. They now spend time together outside of the coding sessions, and have sleepovers, and are forming deeper friendships.