CodeDay Minneapolis: A Hackathon Adventure Introduction to Programming for Students

Stubble: “What is CodeDay in a nutshell?”
Joseph: To answer shortly, it’s simply a weekend (24 hours from noon Saturday to noon Sunday) when students can get away from the stress of schoolwork and really focus on building something cool.

More than that, it’s an opportunity for students to learn as much as possible about coding than any other time – CodeDay is a great place for beginners to meet new friends and gain a lot of coding experience very quickly, all in a fun and productive environment.

Stubble: What language do participants learn at CodeDay? What sorts of programs do they build?
Joseph: This is probably the best part about CodeDay – Students learn whatever they want, while building whatever they love.
What’s great about CodeDay is that it lets the students take the driver seat – their learning is based on whatever they want to build, from websites (Javascript, HTML/CSS), mobile applications (C#, Java, Objective-C/Swift), data visualization (Ruby/Python), and more! The possibilities are truly endless, and the most rewarding part is getting to show it all off at the end!
One of my personal friends first started programming mobile apps at CodeDay 2012 – his Android apps now collectively have some million downloads in total, and he only just graduated high school recently! Here’s a picture of him and his brand new Corvette!! His website can be found here: http://mohammadadib.com

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Stubble: How could the coding community, in Minneapolis or anywhere else, be improved? What’s lacking that something like CodeDay could help with?
Joseph: This is actually a very hot topic – Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, stated that “In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing…and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.”

In my opinion, there are a number of problems with people’s current attitude with the concept of coding. But the more pressing one is the “exclusivity” bias people differentiate between “Computer Geeks, Nerds, Genius hackers” and “Normal People”.
Tech-savviness and code-literacy is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives and simply put: everyone should know it, and everyone can.

A lot of beginners I know fall under the false impression that learning computer programming requires some secretive or special magic ability – when in reality, it’s the exactly the same as learning a new language, such as Spanish or French! CodeDay tackles these problems by opening an opportunity for beginner, intermediate, or advanced coders alike, for 24 hours to join together and share the magical experience when you build something from the heart, while also learning new “magical powers”! People learn a TON at CodeDay, and it’s a lot more fun to learn while creating the future with your friends, than in front of a random, automated tutorial online.

Stubble: Learning to code is obviously helpful for people interested in working as a developer in the future, but what other reasons are there for learning to code? Why should someone who’s not a developer nor do they plan to be learn to code?
Joseph: Code applications are endless. Just like French or Japanese, code is a form of communication, not only for your computer, but for universal communication to people all over the world. Regardless of whether you’re a developer or not, the problem-solving and critical/creative-thinking skills that one learns while programming are applicable to nearly anything you can think of! Computer programming is essentially puzzle-solving, except at the end, the result is much, much more rewarding. Everyone uses the skills programmers use: linguists, biologists, or simply anyone with a need to communicate anything. Learning to solve problems is simply what we do every day in our lives – programming is just another tool.

Stubble: What got you personally involved in coding? Where were you when you first started learning?
Joseph: My formal introduction to coding was my 10th grade AP Computer Science class. I was horrible. I understood nearly nothing my teacher was saying, and more than a lot of my turned in assignments was code vigorously derailed and refined by my more-than-talented peers. But that was my saving grace – I just persisted and looked for help in anything I struggled in. Going to my first CodeDay about 2 years ago was probably the biggest boost in my coding ability. There, I could work on my own project at my own pace, while receiving immense help from a ton of people who were building amazing apps, websites, games, and other awesome projects right next to me! My persistence has paid off, and that I’m having a ton of fun while constantly learning from my hackathon adventures.

Stubble: Do you have a piece of advice for people just learning to code? Maybe something you wished someone had told you when you began?
Joseph: Just keep working, and never stop searching for solutions when you’re discouraged.
Here are two of my favorite articles that are really good reads on the state of technology education and why programming seems so hard to teach, when in reality it’s actually very accessible:
Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard” – Viking Code School
We are All Bad Programmers” – StudentRND

Joseph Zhong is a regional manager at StudentRND, the organizers of CodeDay (February 14-15 at Power Objects in Minneapolis.)

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