Talent defies age at Philly Tech Week

Saturday at Dilworth Park was a mega-fest of walking robots, competitive cyber-nerds, and outdoor liveliness that only Philadelphia can produce.

Techies united to kick-off the fifth anniversary of Philly Tech Week, an annual week-long series of events (April 17-April 25) that celebrates the city’s growing technology and civic innovation sectors. There will be over 100 independently produced conferences, parties, and seminars that will highlight entrepreneurship and education within the region’s emerging tech world.

The launch event, Arcade@Dilworth, was a festive array of game programmers and innovators that came from various backgrounds of experience and years in the business. But despite the difference in age, their exceptional talent was undeniable.

“We are out here to get more youth interested in technology,” says Jason Marziani of Flyclops.

Along with his team, Flyclops has garnered fame for its highly popular game app Domino! which has seen roughly 3 million downloads worldwide. Marziani was at the event to beta test and receive public feedback for their latest game Why Are We Running? They remarkably created the mobile app program for it within a month at their headquarters in Old City.

“We host a lot of game jams where we brainstorm and produce programs that can generate profit,” Marzani said. “I’ve been in the Philly tech scene for 15 years now and there has been so much progress visibly but so much more that can be done internally.”

As the city begins to encourage more independent and younger tech start-ups, Marzani mentions that there should also be a discussion about the “taxes to start such business that are problematic,” and “the parts of the city where internet connection is not present.”

“We have to get the youth connected,” he further adds. “Education is a major issue currently being debated on in this city and the tech world here is just as focused on it as well in wanting more communities to have adequate internet access that allows children to be exposed to our field.”

It was such exposure that helped grant 17-year old robotics programmer, Stanley Umeweni, a full-ride scholarship to study mechanical engineering at Pitt.

A Central High School student, Umeweni was one of 112 students who participated in the youth-driven robotics team chicly named Robolancers that produced their demonstration on Saturday.

This is his fourth Philly Tech Week invitation. He has been attending since he was 13.

“Without Robolancers and participating in Philly Tech Week, I wouldn’t have had a real direction in life,” he said. “The city government does a great job supporting innovation and youth programs…Comcast and Penn helped give us grant money to be here.”

Umeweni’s experience at Philly Tech Week has evolved through time. Once being the “observing little kid watching the older techies build,” to now being proud to “create a full operational robot that can shoot a ball through a rectangular goal on its own.”

Now heading to Pitt in the fall, Umeweni is determined to make his last high school invitation this week “matter more than ever.”

“I will be at the Philly Robotics Expo later this week with Penn which I’m proud to say is student run and organized,” he said. “It will be a great opportunity to really inspire kids to do robotics and show them how much of an impact it can do for their lives…just like it did for me.”

Visit phillytechweek.com for more information.