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Midwest CodeDays help create interest in code, network for students

You may have noticed their events popping up around the Silicon Prairie the past year, but later this month StudentRND‘s CodeDay will come to even more Midwest cities, including Des Moines and Omaha. 

From noon on Saturday, May 24, to noon Sunday, May 25, students of all ages will come together for 24 CodeDays that will be held across the country. While Des Moines and Omaha both will host events, nearby cities like St. Louis, Minneapolis and Chicago also will have CodeDays. 

Early-bird registration is available for $10 through May 19 and students can register up until the event for $20. CodeDay Des Moines will be held at the Science Center of Iowa and CodeDay Omaha will be at Omaha Code School.

We caught up with CodeDay organizer and Iowa State University student Brett Neese to learn a little more about his work with the program and what makes each of the Midwest events unique: 

Silicon Prairie News: How did you get involved with StudentRND?

Brett Neese: That’s kind of a fun story, actually. I was stumbling to do something in their space for some time before I found them. I’m lucky that I’m highly connected with a lot of young entrepreneurs and developers—many of whom were connected to StudentRND’s fantastic Facebook community—and over time, Facebook kept trying to convince me to join their group through their various engagement techniques. I looked into it and I instantly fell in love.

On a whim, I browsed to their website and submitted a Google Form requesting to help bring CodeDay to Iowa. We connected, I ran what ended up being a really fantastic event in Iowa, and I’ve had an extremely good relationship with the rest of the StudentRND team and community ever since.

My story is a bit unique because one of the strongest ways we’ve been able to recruit people to join our mission to reform tech education has been actually running events and programs. For instance, I believe we connected with one of our new board members, Charlie Kindel, because his son went through our programs.

SPN: Since you started working with StudentRND they’ve expanded CodeDay programming quite a bit. What can we expect to see across the Silicon Prairie later this month?

BN: We’re aiming for more than 50 students in Omaha and Des Moines, as well as fantastic events in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Chicago*—though those cities are a bit out of SPN’s jurisdiction, I’m really glad to have a presence in those communities. I’m particularly excited about Des Moines and Omaha—we’ve got some fun things up our sleeves for those events.

More than anything, we’re trying to build a strong, national community of young student technologists. Throughout the past few years, I’ve personally learned first-hand how important moral support can be when you’re involved in technology. It’s sometimes extremely hard to connect with other people in your region involved with technology—when you’re in high school, your entire social network usually revolves around that school and it may very well be the case that you’re the only student in your school interested in technology and the tech community. CodeDay builds bridges between students from many schools. That’s one of the reasons we encourage students, even with no experience and who have never experienced anything quite like what we’re doing, to attend our events.

I’m personally excited to be the one helping put our neck of the woods on the map.

SPN: What makes each CodeDay, whether it’s in Des Moines or Kansas City, unique?

BN: We’ve done a lot of work to rally local communities around each event. From judge and food selection to local startup presence to entertainment, we’re really trying hard to improve local communities as well as unite nationally. Our Des Moines event is being hosted at the Science Center of Iowa, and I’m currently working to bring local DJ and superhero Tres Johnson to help provide some musical entertainment at the Omaha event. Last year, we had Thelma’s Treats at our Des Moines event and I’m hoping to do that again. Embracing and showcasing local culture and community at each of our events is incredibly important to me.

SPN: Now that you’ve helped organize a few CodeDays, what’s your advice for first-timers?

BN: Don’t treat CodeDay like a competition. There are prizes, because the prizes add a nice bookend to the event, but CodeDay is mostly about community and having fun. If nothing else, there’ll be pizza.

*Clarification: Neese is not personally helping organize the Chicago CodeDay event.  


Credits: Brett Neese photo from Twitter

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