Coders of the West Internship – End of Year Reflection, pt 1

It was kind of like the Breakfast Club, except that it happened at about dinner time, and instead of the jock, the nerd, the uptown girl, the misfit, and the rebel…it was the nerd, the nerd, the nerd, the nerd, the nerd, and the nerd.

It was the Coders of the West internship program. Anne (owner of Sheridan Programmers Guild) and I (subordinate/henchman) were fortunate to have the chance to work with the State of Wyoming, Gannett Peak Technical Services of Cheyenne (GTPS), Sheridan College (SC), and  Sheridan High School (SHS) to allow high school and college students in Sheridan County to have access to this hands-on software development opportunity. I count myself fortunate to have worked with each of our interns. I can also, confidently, express thanks on their behalf that they had the experience.

Participants in the Sheridan Team contributed code, design elements, copy, and quality assurance (testing, issue reporting) to a professional web development project lead by GTPS. Interns experienced a mixture of local face-to-face teamwork, remote teamwork with Cheyenne, and independent work.

Coders of the West Internship - Fall Semester 2017 Participants

Coders of the West Internship Fall Semester 2016 Participants, L-to-R: Tyler Osborn, Tylor York, Anne Gunn (Mentor), Caden Masters, Rylee Smith

Coders of the West began with a two week bootcamp last summer. Anne and I, with support from Sheridan College’s Mark Thoney, led 14 students from around Sheridan County in exercises with Javascript and general problem solving. Four of the bootcampers came aboard as interns in the fall semester, Rylee Smith (SHS), Tylor York (SC), Tyler Osborn (SHS), and Caden Masters (SHS). Rylee and Tylor left for other work at semester, and we brought on Sidney Jensen (SHS), Sara Keeney (SHS), and Tyler Defeyter (SC) to replenish the ranks.

The Coders of the West internship had a twofold purpose:

  1. Experiential learning of the technical and soft/professional skills required for the software development workplace; and
  2. Build a product: a professional web application.
Coders of the West Wyoming Internship Program Spring Semester

Coders of the West Spring Semester participants (l to r): Sidney Jensen, Sara Keeney, Tyler Defeyter, Anne Gunn (mentor), Bret Norwood (mentor), Tyler Osborn, Caden Masters

The Wyoming Department of Education Career Explorer (WDECE) is a web application commissioned by the Wyoming Dept. of Ed. While the experiential learning should be of the greater importance in the longer run, I would be remiss to omit at least the most cursory description of the product. Aha! But the point of having interns is making them do it for you! Here are two summary posts by Caden Masters: pt 1, pt 2.

I’m (mostly) being tongue-in-cheek about the point of interns, because this program did not exist to teach coffee-fetching skills or how to run a copy machine. Instead, the Coders of the West gained various degrees of experience in Javascript, HTML/CSS, Git, jQuery, Bootstrap, NPM, Vue.js, Google Maps API, Google Charts API, Bitbucket, Github, Atom, design process, copywriting, testing procedures, banging of the head against insoluble bugs, disrupting each other with random jokes, and digressing into rants about favorite nerd-doms — all valuable skills in the field of software development.

Coders of the West Interns fight bugs

There hasn’t been a war on bugs like this in Wyoming since Starship Troopers (1997).

How much did they accomplish? Well, while we were waiting on a green light to start coding WDECE, the fall semester team built a simple web app to map and look up school bus routes. They did this from scratch in Javascript, using jQuery, Twitter Bootstrap, Google Maps API, and Google Charts API. In particular, I have to credit Tylor York with drafting much of the initial Javascript. Caden and Tyler Osborn, meanwhile, supported the project by processing and managing Sheridan County School District #2 route data to demo the application for SCSD2. Rylee Smith produced initial design specs and served as quality assurance. The initial draft of the app was almost entirely designed, data-sourced, and coded by the interns, with a working first-pass completed by the turn of the semester.

In addition to demoing and offering the app to SCSD2, the interns released the code under an open source license on Github (fork it!) so others can use it or develop their own application from it. Here is the live demo (showing SCSD2 data from the 2016-17 school year).

Coders of the West interns workingWork on WDECE began with the start of spring semester. Caden coordinated with Jazmine Phippin of Cheyenne team to amass Wyoming business data from the Internet, including video and website links. Coding began in earnest when Gannett Peak stood up a skeleton of the app using a Vue.js framework. This framework proved a challenge, in that Vue employs Javascript in a set of currently fashionable conventions that don’t look much like the traditional Javascript typically encountered by new learners. However, the interns adapted admirably through immersion in it and, by the close of semester, had all contributed original code to the project.

While Gannett Peak professional developers focused on server-side api and, later, the user-facing views of the app, Sheridan Team focused contributions toward the administrative end, providing views wherein a future site administrator will be able to manage, add, or delete companies, schools, etc in the database. Sheridan also contributed:

  • Initial About page copy and layout revisions
  • The ability to load GeoJSON into a Google Map
  • Adding infobox “popovers” to map markers
  • Different colored skins with a dropdown selector
  • Several custom Google Map styles
  • Revision of API calls to reflect an API version update by Cheyenne Team

In the second part of my end-of-year summary, we’ll hear about the program in the voices of its intern participants and reflect on the project-oriented learning experience regarding WDECE.

Part 2 ->

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