Sunrise Code Camp was a free, two-day coding workshop for beginners from 10am – 3pm on Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15, 2014 at Eldorado High School in Las Vegas. By the end of the camp, attendees were going to have built their first interactive web application. The only requirement was a desire to learn. Laptops were provided by organizers.
“On the first day, we covered the basics of HTML and CSS, and participants were able to create their own website on codepen.io,” explained organizer Rachel Warbelow. “On the second day, we covered Ruby basics and set up a Sinatra app (Sinatra is like a baby version of Rails) using the HTML page that were designed on day 1.”
“Our goal was to introduce programming to people with little to no experience and teach them how to create a web application,” said volunteer Nick Shook.
“We wanted to get people to see how fun and empowering it is to be able to code,” added Rachel Warbelow. “I think it’s such a great feeling to be able to take an idea and make it come to life through code.”
Rachel Warbelow and Nick Shook volunteered at RailsGirls in Los Angeles back in March 2014 and thought it would be cool to bring a similar event to the Las Vegas community.
“Both of us also recognized the fact that many tech events are aimed at the DTLV community, so we wanted to target a different community; one that maybe isn’t as familiar with all of the tech events and meetups in Vegas already,” said Rachel Warbelow. “Since I work at a school in East Vegas, we thought that would be the perfect place to try it out. Registration was open to anyone living or working in East Vegas.”
Attendees for the event were diverse. About half of the 17 participants were teachers from schools in East Vegas, and half were members of the community — from recent high school graduates to small business owners.
Nick Shook wasn’t the only volunteer who turned out for the Sunrise Code Camp event.
“I’m proud to say VegasTech made a great showing at Sunrise Code Camp,” he said. “A big thanks to Marc Martino, Charlie Jackson, Amanda Sou, Brian Lu, David Grayson, Ryan Mulligan, and Sean Hagstrom for donating their time to help out.”
Rachel Warbelow and Nick Shook say coding opens up new opportunities for people in our community, whether finding a good job or helping their small business grow. It’s empowering to create something that can help others, change people’s lives, or provide entertainment.
“For people who maybe weren’t successful in school, or had hardships that prevented them from obtaining further education, I think that being able to code can open a whole bunch of doors that may have previously been closed,” Rachel Warbelow said. “It also gives people a skill that differentiates them from other potential job applicants.”
“We had a kid come who wanted to be a game developer and started dancing after he completed parts of the class,” Nick Shook added.
What are the barriers present in our Las Vegas community to learning to code?
Nick Shook and Rachel Warbelow agree money is often the barrier.
“Too often, people do not even have a machine they can code on. As a community we can be more proactive about donating old laptops,” Nick Shook says. “I also think Nitrous is a great solution, because as long as your computer is relatively new, you can create any code on it.”
“The idea of “learning to code” can be totally intimidating, especially when you think of how the media portrays computer programming,” Rachel Warbelow adds. “Also, conquering the language barrier. Especially in East Vegas, there’s a large Spanish-speaking population, but I haven’t really seen many events held in Spanish.”
“Sunrise Code Camp was blessed to have Nitrous.io sponsor the event,” said Nick Shook. “I met Arun, a co-founder, last weekend at Dockercon, and with barely knowing me, he was generous enough to provide free Nitrous accounts for our students to code throughout the weekend. For those who do not know what Nitrous is, Nitrous provides almost any computer with access to the Internet a world class development environment. With Nitrous, we did not have to worry about setting up virtual machines, which was a huge hassle when I volunteered at similar events. Instead all we needed was 10 minutes to help people sign up for GitHub, Heroku, CodePen and Nitrous accounts and everyone was good to go.”