Tennessee coding camps aim to teach next generation of coders

Tennessee coding camps aim to teach next generation of coders

April 2nd, 2014 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Jacob Smith, left, comes to a sudden realization with the help of HTML teacher Seun Erinle on the first day of a 2013 code camp in Chattanooga.

Photo by Shawn Paik /Times Free Press.


What: Tennessee Code Academy camp

When: April 14 - 18, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Chattanooga, location TBA

Cost: $300

Application deadline: April 10

Visit: tncodeacademy.com

Is coding the language of the future?

Yes, says Sammy Lowdermilk, program director at The Biz Foundry, a business accelerator in Cookeville, Tenn.

"Kids these days have a screen in front of them virtually all the time, whether it's a tablet, smart phone, computer -- even our TVs are interactive," he said. "Kids not only want to interact with those screens, they want to create things to make the devices do what they want."

That one reason why Lowdermilk is touring across the state this summer, offering coding camps and workshops to kids between the ages of 12 and 18. The Tennessee Code Academy will stop in Chattanooga for a four-day camp April 14 to 18 -- classes will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cover everything from HTML to PHP to design fundamentals and gaming.

Lowdermilk is hoping the coding lessons will help fill the hole left by most Tennessee middle and high schools. While the United States already employs 1 million software developers and that number is expected to grow at least 22 percent by 2020, most children aren't learning how to code in school.

Most high schools don't require a coding class before graduation, and that can automatically put Tennessee's students at a disadvantage in an increasingly tech-centered work world.


What: 100 Girls of Code workshop

When: June 23, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Chattanooga, location TBA

Visit: www.100girlsofcode.com

Source: Tennessee Code Academy

"We started Tennessee Code Academy last year to help build a high tech talent pool in Tennessee to support our startups and entrepreneurs, but also to foster some innovation and encourage our younger folks to be entrepreneurs themselves," Lowdermilk said.

The Code Camp costs $300 per student and spans four days. At the end of the camp, kids demonstrate their new skills for parents, said Angela Ballard, chief learning officer at WTCI/PBS Chattanooga. The studio hosted a camp last fall.

"Some kids built websites that had some advanced coding like interactive forms or password protected sessions," she said. "Some kids did some game development, some kids made mobile apps. They were delighted with everything they learned and could demonstrate by the end of the week."

Later this summer, another The Biz Foundry program will bring coding to town -- but exclusively for Chattanooga's girls. The 100 Girls of Code program will host a one-day workshop on June 23. Two female computer programmers will teach as many as 25 girls the basics of coding at the workshop, which is aimed at boosting the number of women in computer science jobs.

The program is already scheduled to stop in 11 Tennessee cities, but it is also trying to raise $15,000 through donations on the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. The extra funds would allow 100 Girls of Code to stop in additional cities across the state, Lowdermilk said.

"The more money we raise," he said, "the more stops we can make."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with story ideas.