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Thirteen graduate from inaugural Omaha Code School, ready for work

      

Omaha Code School students celebrate the end of class with silly photobooth pictures at Friday’s graduation.

They haven’t mastered programming in 12 weeks, but 13 Omaha Code School students have learned enough to be ready for the real world, says instructor Sumeet Jain.

It was the first batch of students to go through the city’s first coding school, and while there were no caps and gowns, Friday’s graduation ceremony was full of pomp and circumstance.

Students demoed their projects, Hello Holiday co-founder Megan Hunt gave a commencement address and students received diplomas. More than 75 friends, family and startup community members attended the event at the Midtown Crossing location of Code School. 

“What I see before me is a community excited about educating its members,” Jain told the crowd. “The’ve been working hard for 12 weeks and even before that they had to make the decision to try out this inaugural class at a new school. They trusted us to teach them and I thank them for giving me the opportunity to be their teacher. 

“They’ve moved fast. I’m excited for your future, your careers.”

Hunt told the students they were on their way to building things that will enrich the world.

“As part of the first class, you’re equipped to solve problems of the world through technology, but it’s not possible to make the world better from a basement, cube farm or wherever else,” she said. “You’ve got to get out into the community, participate in events, be an active member and pay attention to civic issues—that’s where the problems are solved. 

“Your collective knowledge makes Omaha better. What happens here is a chapter in your individual story, but page in the book of Omaha’s future.” 

She also encouraged students to share their experience through blogging about the Code School class, teaching others and creating open-source software. 

And students did share Friday.

Andy Von Dohren, a student who quit his job at Mutual of Omaha as an information security analyst to do Code School, created a check-in system for his church’s children’s group. By typing in a phone number, a printer auto-prints a child’s name tag with information about their room, parent’s name and more. It also has a back-end system to email or contact parents. 

He also helped recreate OmaWho.com and the Sock Monkeys Against Cancer websites. 

Michael Todd, a former editor of HearNebraska.com, created a website scavenger hunt for local artists’ vinyl. Todd hid records at local businesses as a part of Unfound Sounds and scavengers find them by following clues on the site. The monthly contest has already had a successful first run.

“I want to build community with whatever I do,” Todd said. 

Jain said he built Unfound Sounds as a side project and ran with it.

“He is the epitome of the spirit of the students we want,” Jain said. “He can build more things than we taught him to do.”

Britt Woolf, a student with an architecture background, created Watch us Build, a website that creates animated gifs of a new building’s progress.

Brandon Norris wowed the crowd with his robot bartender: a combination of his maker background—he helped found the Omaha Maker Group three years ago—and Ruby on Rails skills he learned at Code School. 

Norris built the hardware with wood, bottle dispensers you can find online, motors, an Arduino controller and an app he built. He said he did some programming about ten years ago, but nothing nice like this.

“I’ve got an understanding of HTML and how the Web works now,” he said. “I know the language of the Web, and that’s nothing I would’ve known without these three or four months.

“It’s been enlightening to see what I can do.”

He said he thinks he could land a junior developer job somewhere, preferably a startup or somewhere that would combine his hardware and maker skills with his newly acquired Ruby on Rails skills. 

“I couldn’t run the show yet, but I feel confident that if someone gave me a design, I could build it. I think you’re always learning.”

That’s also what Jain believes. 

“They take away the ability to be self-educators,” Jain told Silicon Prairie News after the ceremony. “They’ve got a good foundation to teach themselves. 

“The students graduating are sure bets to be the best junior developers you can find. They know front- and back-end and do it with a mutual understanding. That’s important.”

Jain also says his students are pre-screened to have an entrepreneurial mindset with lean methodology, a skill set that is highly desirable to the startup community.

While none of the students have jobs lined up, Jain said there’s been conversations with employers. Next session, he wants students to talk to employers earlier, because in four weeks they had already built Rails apps by themselves.

“I think getting exposure to employers and giving them a chance to see what they can do and get early critiques will be important,” he said.

Jain also thinks he can teach more next time around, building more apps, doing more client work.

The next Omaha Code School class begins July 28. Interface School, another Web development school in Omaha, graduates its first class June 12.

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