Students learn about coding at boot camp

DOWNERS GROVE – Chamber630 teamed up with Microsoft, Community High School District 99, Venture 1818 and Maureen Dunne to put on its first Code DuPage Boot Camp, which took place during spring break at Downers Grove South High School.

The three-day program brought in about a dozen students to try their hand at coding.

The boot camp provided a space for high school students to learn code instruction, hear from guest experts in the industry and compete in a hack-a-thon.

Dunne, a co-founder of Code DuPage Boot Camp, said the idea for the camp came up during talks among community leaders about a year ago.

“Part of our mission we discovered was that we need to strengthen the technology pipeline and encourage young people to stay in DuPage County,” Dunne said. “That’s one of the goals we identified as a need.”

Experts who spoke to the students during the three-day event included representatives from Microsoft, start-up companies and technology entrepreneurs. Presenters discussed, among other things, career possibilities, the future of 5G networks, drones and robotics.

Downers Grove South High School sophomore Anthony Rosalia said he felt compelled to sign up for Code DuPage Boot Camp.

“Coding has always been a forte of mine,” Rosalia said. “I’m into robotics and engineering. I can work with functions, variables and loops.”

There is a coding club at Downers Grove South, but Rosalia said the primary focus is on robotics.

“We don’t do much coding there,” he said. “It’s mostly Vex.”

Code DuPage Boot Camp provided an opportunity for students to learn how to code with Python, a computer programming language that some participants said they had little to no familiarity with.

Downers Grove South High School freshman Daniel Antonyuck said he was happy that he signed up for the boot camp as it offered one-to-one and small-group attention.

“I could get help with programming,” Antonyuck said.

Antonyuck said that he learned an analogy to help make sense of how to deal with loops during the boot camp.

“I’m starting to know Python,” he said.

Downers Grove North High School sophomore Andrew Swenson said he is not aware of a coding club at his school, but was pleased with what he learned at the boot camp.

“Python is easy compared to other languages,” Swenson said. “It’s good to know. So many devices use it. I could go home and code. It’s a gateway to other programming languages you can learn. The harder languages you have to build your way up to. It’s like learning a foreign language. You have to know grammar first to work your way up.”

Swenson added he wants to be an electrical engineer and is interested in pursuing different avenues that allow him to mix coding with hardware.

“The union of those things is beautiful, if you know how to use them right,” he said.

Participants split up to form two teams during the hack-a-thon, the final portion of the boot camp. In it, students were tasked with developing an idea in which they can use coding to execute.

Antonyuck said that winning was his goal.

“We have a big chance,” he said. “At the same time, they have a big chance. We don’t know what they’re doing yet.”

He said there was a lot of pressure for those tasked with coding during the hack-a-thon.

Swenson agreed, saying the time constraints created a bit of pressure.

“It seems like a lot of time, but you’re refining and coding,” Swenson said. “The judging adds pressure. It’s a competition, and you’re competing with people you know.”

The next installment of Code DuPage will take place during the summer. Dunne said event details will be ironed out in the coming weeks.

Several students expressed interest in signing up for the second installment.

“We’re really excited to see students that participated that they’re interested in taking that next, and that was our goal with this,” Dunne said.