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Winning team gets half off tuition at Interface School graduation

Three lucky students took home the top prize at the Interface School graduation Thursday night: $2,000 off tuition and bragging rights for having the best project.

Nick Chickinelli, Sam Carlisle and Matt Niblock won for a website they created for nonprofit DIBS, Delivering Infinite Bookshelves. The nonprofit, which tracks reading goals for elementary and middle school students, was started by a former Teach for America teacher. Attendees at the graduation event, held at La Vista’s Lucky Bucket Brewery, got to vote on the best project.

DIBS’ previous site had good functionality but poor design and wasn’t scalable for multiple schools, the group said. So the students came up with a one-page, responsive website that was beautifully designed, easy to use and had improvements to the dashboard.

The other teams made a social media-like hub website for the American Heart Association group, the Sweethearts, that is a mentorship program with focus on leadership, advocacy, community service and healthy living for its young female members. The students who worked on the project said the group had no online presence before, so they created a website where people could go to find blogs and other info, increase recruiting and networking opportunities and get information on events. 

The third group created an API for Startup Genome, a site that maps information about startups all over the world. The students took raw data and found what was valuable and interesting out of that data to create interesting visualizations. Some of the reports they showed off were Omaha fundraising efforts vs. San Francisco/Bay Area fundraising and London fundraising. 

“Need to grow with it”

Interface School was created by Dundee Venture Capital to address the talent drain, said managing director of the school, Shonna Dorsey.

“My favorite stat is that there are 250,000 tech jobs available and that number will continue to grow, but the developers need to grow with it,” she told the crowd of about 100 people. 

Dorsey told SPN she’s seen students develop professionally from working with clients and trying to deliver products on time. They presented their projects three times over the last few days, once at 1 Million Cups, another to a private panel of judges and lastly at graduation. 

“They improved each time,” she said.

Instructor Jerod Santo spent 10 weeks with the students teaching them the fundamentals of web development.

“Web is an easy game to learn, but hard to master,” he said. “You can be a useful member of the community with a little training, but it will take a lifetime to master web development.”

He described the students’ growth with an anecdote about Alan Peterson, a quieter student who keeps his head down, working hard.

“I gave him a harder task that I thought would take him the whole afternoon and meant to check on him in an hour,” he said. “He comes to my desk in 15 minutes, slams his laptop on my desk and says: ‘WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.’

“He accomplished this task on his own and was extremely excited about it. That’s the instant gratification of solving real-world problems on your own.”

A few students have rounded up job opportunities, like Paul Mancuso, who used to work at a grocery store. He will work with Santo at his consultant firm, Object Lateral

David Orrick is joining another consultant firm. Matt Niblock will continue his internship with Lucky Bucket Brewery and will continue to consult them on its website. Others are in the process of interviewing.

Another major development was announced Thursday: First National Bank and Interface established a $70,000 partnership to provide students scholarship money in exchange for working as interns at First National Bank.

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