CodeDay Retrospective

CodeDay: The Weekend in Review

What a weekend! CodeDay was a whirlwind, two days spent with 30+ high school students who we felt, in many cases, were much smarter than us. We’ll tell you a little bit about what we shared with the kids, but mostly what they gave us in return: endless inspiration, humor, positivity, and a bright glimpse into what the future holds for them.

Getting Started

Upon arrival, kids immediately started setting up their battle stations. Monitors and towers were strategically placed, sleeping bags were stashed, sodas were cracked open and snacks were consumed. We kicked off by meeting parents, giving tours of our office and feeding everyone some lunch to get their brain juices flowing. Once we formally kicked off, we went around and listened to groups’ initial idea pitches and the students chose who they’d like to work with/what they’d like to work on. This round things seemed to be heavily focused on gaming, which was totally okay--most of the groups took very different, unique approaches and were ready to delve in.


Students hard at work on their projects as soon as everyone got settled in. Photo credit: Benji Kauth
Students hard at work on their projects as soon as everyone got settled in. Photo credit: Benji Kauth

What We (All) Learned

The main focus around the hackathon weekend was not so much winning prizes (although there certainly were some to win), as much as learning, failing, and learning some more. Our staff, along with the organizers, put together some workshops to engage the students and give them some insight into careers in our industry. Two of our developers, Johnny Pacheco (Front End) and Scott Foster (Back End), teamed up together to teach a really important skill at hackathons--how to go from an idea to a prototype:

Scott teaches APIs and prototypes
Scott Foster teaching all about APIs and prototypes. Photo Credit: Benji Kauth


We also had a Sr. Art Director from Ansira, Matt Potter, visit with us and teach an Intro to Design workshop. He reviewed the principles of design, and talked about how we have a responsibility to use it to make the world a better place, and chatted briefly about a wide range of careers for those interested in design & art. You can view a brief clip from our Facebook live stream here

Observations

Well for starters, this event creates a safe, fun space for kids to spend an entire weekend learning new things. This is important, because they can share and collaborate with each other and learn new software, languages, tools, techniques, etc. Collaboration is just another perk--they get to meet people from all over (we had students from Austin & San Antonio that made the drive up to Dallas for this!) and work on teams with them, so new friendships are formed. This usually results in those students coming back together as teams in the future, which is a beautiful thing. The overall result is a lot of silliness, loads of fun and positive interactions from the students, and lots of knowledge gained from the time they're able to spend focusing on learning a new skill set with the oversight of mentors. Additonal perk: our staff & volunteers learned quite a bit from the students too.

Damage Control

You’d think that with a bunch of teenage boys (almost 30 of them, to be exact) running around our office, the place would’ve been left in shambles following this event. But truly, this was a great group of kids who were respectful of our space and the boundaries/rules we set (and having chaperones & volunteers there certainly helps). Now don’t get us wrong--we definitely had some airing out to do after they all left, and pizza crumbs to sweep, but overall we’d chalk it up as a success.

And the winner is…

The students created some really great projects, and we were really impressed. Some of them didn’t quite get as far as they imagined they would, but mainly because they set the bar really high (which is a really great reason to "fail"). But just about every group, regardless of finishing their product or not, was brave enough to get up and demo for the audience before awards were given. Our judges had a great time walking around listening to and observing project demos, and it was great to see the students show off their creations to each other. Proud group, parents & student moments abounded:

Our very own Nicole Oakes (Front End Developer) won an MVP award for helping rescue some students who had locked themselves out of a conference room:

Nicole accepting her MVP award. Photo Credit: Benji Kauth
Nicole accepting her MVP award. Photo Credit: Benji Kauth

A Final Note…

Overall, our staff had a wonderful time hosting these kids. We were honored to be a place where these students could come and learn from some of/with us, and we were grateful to learn from them in return. None of this would have been possible without the fearless organizer, Mess Wright, and the possibly even more fearless volunteer Benji Kauth, who helped us manage the overnight portion of the weekend. He stayed up all night playing games with the kids and helping them with their projects, so a big shout out to him. Moral of the story: we had fun and we'd definitely do it again.

Want to get involved as a mentor or volunteer? Check out CodeDay's website to learn more and get involved.