Coding Bootcamp - Week 1

Orientation, getting to grips with the basics & crotch blow-out…

Hey everyone.

Week one is complete!

It’s Saturday afternoon as I write this and I never been happier to sit on the couch! My mind is buzzing, and at the same time, I’m feeling pretty tired. My first week at Makers Academy has been a good one and I’d thought I’d share some of the highlights…


The February cohort of Makers Academy is made up of 22 students, a number of whom have travelled a long way to be here. One guy even crowd-funded his way onto the course. From what I can make out so far, there is a real mix in terms of backgrounds - some are straight out of Uni, others are career-switching. Our introduction to Makers Academy kicked off with some really useful advice from the teaching team. Having now graduated 100+ students they are at a point where they have some strong theories about how new students can make the most of their time during the twelve weeks. Quite simply, the most successful graduates:1) Worked hard. We should expect to do an additional 2-3 hours per day of study outside of class and…2) Were confident. Self-belief plays an important role. > ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right.’ Henry FordThese points have really struck a chord with me. Not once was it claimed that a background in computer science and a high IQ were essential prerequisites. Rather, the Makers Academy crew are keen to emphasise that it’s more about a willingness to learn and adopting an internal locus of control. This attidude no doubt has relevance in all aspects of life, and is not just soley relevant to learning software development.We were warned that it’s normal to go through a bit of a ‘slump’ half way through the course as the intensity picks up. Openly crying at your desk has is normal, apparently!

The learning beginsWe were all armed with a MacBook Pro and desk space and hit the books…or in this case, the online course materials. Learning to code is going to take a lot of mental energy and so I’m particularly pleased that we have unlimited access to snacks and drinks (including beer!) from the well-supplied kitchen.Topics covered this week were command line, version control and ruby language basics culminating in our first project. There is a mix of lectures and self-directed learning, but the big emphasis is on peer learning and ultimately, peer programming. Peer programming (pairing with another person to code) is seen as a sure-fire way to quickly build programming skills and create good software. This point was emphasised by our first guest speaker Sam Joseph from Hawai’i Pacific University. Pair programming, in his opinion is a multiplier in terms of skills development. Start it early and do it often. His advice to would-be programmers again echoes Makers Academy’s own regarding confidence - the open source community is very welcoming and we should just get in there asap and start contributing.

Health mind, healthy body…

But mind your jeans.Makers Academy has its very own ‘Chief of Joy’. Dana is there to look out for the well-being of students and as part of her role she holds daily meditation sessions. Feeling like I could do with a bit of time-out from coding, I went along happily to give it a go. I soon realised that my slim-fitting jeans were not cut out for sitting cross-legged (or even kneeling) on a mat. I spent those ten precious minutes worrying about a pending crotch blowout, rather than emptying my head of all thoughts. That said, I really appreciated the opportunity, and will continue to take up the offer, perhaps next time sporting a pair of jeggings.

The first test

The week ended with with a test on the command line. I went into it feeling prepared but quite nervous all the same. The test was challenging and a number of the questions were new territory, requiring some frantic googling. Pleased to say I passed though and now am the proud owner of the Unixoid sticker below. Hooray :-)Bring on week 2.”,

Written on February 22, 2014