At first glance, the scene at BRIC resembled a science fair for adults.
Students from Downtown Brooklyn’s New York City College of Technology, known as City Tech, stood at tables draped in black, presenting their summer projects on their laptops, with their resumes and business cards at the ready.
“This was my first time experiencing 3D printing,” said Bruno Melofiro, who has three semesters left at City Tech.
This summer, he interned at Alexapath, a Dumbo-based “Skype for microscopes” that enables slides to be viewed remotely by smartphone. (We met Alexapath’s founder, Lou Auguste, last year at NYU Engineering’s Research Expo.) Melofiro’s work involved developing prototypes of accessories the company plans to sell, including an adaptor to mount the phone onto the microscope, which he gamely demoed for passersby.
“Would you be interested in developing art objects?” asked Wendy Hu, the founder of Visual Conductor, a creative agency based at WeWork Dumbo Heights. The two exchanged contact information.
That’s exactly the kind of interaction the organizers of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Internship Program, or BTTIP, hope to foster. Last week, BTTIP presented its demo night for the nine-week summer session, which ends this week. The program sponsors paid internships in tech, media and design with local companies for students at City Tech each spring and summer. Each intern gets paid $15/hour, paid for by the Tech Triangle, not the businesses. Some 120 college students applied for the program’s 50 slots this summer.
The internship program has two goals, according to Ryan McAllister, the director of operations for the Brooklyn Education Innovation Alliance, one of the program’s sponsors. Like most internships, it provides students an opportunity to develop practical job skills, but it also aims to encourage closer collaboration between industry and higher education. BTTIP began in 2013 as a partnership of City Tech, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and the Tech Talent Pipeline. This year, the Brooklyn Education Innovation Network (BE.IN) joined the effort.
“Tech has really become more of a collaborative and dynamic industry,” McAllister said. “We’re trying to get students prepared for that.”
Forging closer ties with tech companies has been a priority of late for City Tech, college president Russell Hotzler told Technical.ly.
“If we’re not connected, then our programs can’t be that effective,” he said.
In addition to BTTIP, the college has partnered with Microsoft and Infor for students and NYC residents to receive periodic industry training. City Tech is in the process of opening a dedicated lab for Infor’s software so that students will be able to work with it regularly.
The program feels like a win-win for Brooklyn’s tech scene. It’s no secret that companies are clamoring for tech talent — not just in Brooklyn, but all over the country — and City Tech and BTTIP can provide that talent at a lower price. Plus, the focus on placing students at Brooklyn-based companies means that tech talent is being developed in the borough.
Kyesha Kelly, the founder and CEO of Navy Yard-based online retailer HipHopCloset.com, has hosted BTTIP interns on several occasions since 2014.
“The first time I did it, I was really surprised by the level of talent the interns had,” she said.
Since then, Kelly has hired one former design intern full-time, while others have gone on to work on freelance design projects.
“We see students come out with another level of professionalism,” said James Jackson Jr., the internship coordinator.
Jackson, who assumed his role in February, serves as the students’ primary resource throughout the duration of the program. We caught up with him as he was advising one participant on how to transfer credits from his previous school.
The program may be about strengthening Brooklyn’s growing tech muscle, but as Jackson showed, it’s also a personal mission, which is perhaps in keeping with the sense of community the borough’s tech leaders aim to foster.
“I said I wasn’t going to cry,” he said as he gave the students one last send-off.
One student immediately chimed in from the crowd. “Let’s hug him!”
Here’s a list of the participating companies, as per BE.IN’s Eddie Summers.