1st Hackathon — Great Success

This was an absolutely crazy weekend.  Not only did I participate in my first Spartan Race, but I also participated in my first hackathon – sponsored by The Iron Yard Academy and SolTech.

Now if you don’t know what a hackathon is, don’t worry, I’m only about a week ahead of you, for I didn’t know what it was either until it was announced.  Basically, the Atlanta based tech company, SolTech, had some of their movers and shakers come in and pitch 3 different application ideas to our cohort.  We split up the Iron Yard students into 6 different groups, 2 per project idea.  My group had the privilege of creating a sports management app for managing recreational sports leagues – we called it Genius Sports.



Genius Sports, the smartest way to manage your recreational sports team, was a blast to produce.  Our group, consisting of 2 front end developers, 3 back end developers, and 2 iOS developers were able to create a nice looking, basic functioning prototype in 36 hours.  We had great communication throughout the project and our back end server guys were particularly solid.  They had our endpoints and documentation produced in no time and were forging on, creating functionalities that we knew we weren’t going to be able to get to in the short time given, a nice problem to have.  It was a great project to be a part of and I made some great strides working with Angular.js.

Presentation Day:

In real world fashion, each of the projects were presented as if we were asking for funding from investors.  It felt like our very own Shark Tank.  This is where I really shine, giving presentations is in my DNA.  My mother is a 5th grade teacher, my father is a musician and long-time church choir member, and I’ve taught 2 years of CrossFit classes and attended 4 years of business school at Georgia Tech – giving a great presentation is my ace of spades and comes very naturally, plus I enjoy it.  So I volunteered to give our product presentation and am very glad I did.  We ended up winning the best presentation accolade and got noticed by some employers in the industry, pretty cool.  Even though we were a fictional company, I wanted to give the impression that we were the real thing and make it feel like we wanted the audience’s business.  That meant not getting too technical, not showing any code, and focusing on the consumer benefits and the why’s.  It was a fun exercise and a memorable experience overall.  All of the groups did an excellent job creating functional products in under 36 hours and major props to the Iron Yard faculty who organized it for us.




I Love Teaching

Last night The Iron Yard Atlanta introduced a new satellite for their existing Free Kids Course – and they needed volunteers.  I, again, raised my hand even though I’m bogged down with work and probably should be focused on refactoring assignments – but I’m also an entrepreneur at heart and see raising my hand as saying yes to a new opportunity, changing some kids lives, and building up my personal brand and network.  Unlike the first and second kids classes, this one I taught by myself and didn’t have any support from my classmate Alex.  No worries, we followed the lesson plan from the first class and by the end I had all the kids chanting “Everything is a Box” – great success!

These classes will be taking place at the Exchange Park Recreation and Intergenerational Center – an activities center in Decatur about 9 miles east on I-20 from 75/85 in the heart of downtown ATL – ya I just went SNL “The Californians” on you there.

Admittedly, I was not in a great mental state on the way over there, I was tired, feeling overwhelmed, hungry, and worried about my financial future.  After teaching that class, I had this joy that could not be squandered.  The kids were really interested and I got a few “Oooohs and Ahhhs”  when they saw how to get a YouTube video on their page.  A couple of the kids stayed after to ask more questions and find out what other resources they could work with when they got home.  It’s just incredible to work with people who are passionate about what they’re learning and I’m thankful to play a small part in that.

If you’re interested in getting you kids involved in a Coding After School Program – please let me know!

Iron Yard Kids – Class 2/6


  • Alex Pate and I are the instructors.
  • 13-18 year olds are our students.

Our Teaching Tools:

  • Projector
  • Laptop
  • CodePen
  • Whiteboard

Our New Approach:

Here is our new approach to each class… I’m presenting, engaging the kids, asking them questions, and covering the lesson plan we outline together. My partner in education Alex, who is a WIZARD on the computer, takes the lead of the computer connected to the presentation projector.  What I realized this week, is how incredibly empowering it is to have someone as skilled as Alex in the room to literally create the teaching material in front of the children’s eyes.  I can say, hey let’s show them this, and POOF, it’s on the screen right in front of them and I’m polling the room on who understands it or who has questions.  It seemed to work really well and thanks to my mother, I am in the process of realizing a gift for presentation.

What we Covered:

  • HTML tags <this is a open tag>………</and this is a closing tag>
  • Adding content to a body tag <body></body>
  • Unordered Lists <ul></ul>
  • Ordered Lists <ol></ol>
  • List Items <li></li>
  • <a href “#”>Anchor Tags</a>
  • Images <img src=”#”/>
  • Targeting elements in CSS
  • Changing color, font-size, and background-color

Takeaways From This Week:

  • These kids are getting it, quickly, they seem to be hungry for more
  • These kids need to see some JavaScript magic… Alex and I agreed that each week we’re going to dedicate 5 min to demonstrate some basic JS and jQuery magic to help connect the synapses and show a little bit of the man behind the curtain.
  • To keep their attention, we need to show them things that will keep them engaged – CSS and JS…
  • Next week, I need to separate the brother/sister dynamic duo that play games all throughout class, they just feed off each other.  I don’t have an issue with kids playing games during a free class, UNLESS it takes away from the learning of the other 80% that are there to learn and really get some value.

This Week’s Homework Assignment:

  • Complete HTML & CSS Basics II on Codecademy
  • Create a Personal CodePen with the following:
    • 3 unordered lists
    • 1 ordered list
    • List out the steps to make a PB&J sandwich
  • Extra Credit:
    • Include 5 images
    • Link those 5 images back to their source

Everything is a Box. I Repeat. Everything is a Box!

Tonight was a first for me in my learn to code journey – which began a mere 2 months ago when I registered for my first HTML/CSS course on Codecademy.  Since then, I’ve completed their HTML/CSS, Javascript, and jQuery courses to completion.  Then, first week of January I enrolled into the Iron Yard Academy’s 12 week Front End Engineering bootcamp.  The knowledge gained has been incredible thus far.  So much so that I had another first tonight…

Tonight, my classmate Alex and I taught our 1st Iron Yard Kids class for HTML/CSS – 1 of 6 classes that this amazing course offers FOR FREE.  Our class is made up of twelve 13-18 year olds, and some of these kids are already WAY ahead of the curve – having already completed more Codecademy courses than I have… :/

I may be slightly biased, however I think the first class went incredibly smoothly and I think the kids are going to get a lot out of this course in a short period of time.  Here is how today’s lesson plan went:

  1. Alex and I introduced ourselves, gave a brief history of who we are, why we’re here, and what our hobbies were.  Yes Alex claimed with great pride that he enjoys smoking meats in his spare time – lol.
  2. Next, we laid 3 ground rules for the course: 1) Have Fun   2) Learn A Lot   3) Ask Tons of Questions
  3. Next, we went around the room, and every student had to state their name, grade, and their favorite website.  An interesting takeaway – 3/4 of the room said MineCraft and YouTube were their favorite sites.
  4. Then we had an unexpectedly short download party – everyone already had Chrome installed and the planned Sublime Text install came to an abrupt halt once we realized half the machines were Chromebooks and couldn’t install it – so we worked with Codepen instead.
  5. Then I took the stage and we entered into a general discussion about how building a house is ALOT like building a website.  I polled the room and they said in order to build a house you need a Plan, Foundation, Walls, Floors, Wiring, Paint, Furniture, etc.  This prompted my GRAND metaphor for how HTML is the Foundation, Walls, and Floors of a webpage and the Paint, Wallpaper, and Trim is the CSS.  I hope they got this metaphor – I certainly was proud of it.
  6. Next came the “BOX” mantra that certainly got in grained into every child and parent in the room.  Everything that lives on a page is a box.  The page is a box, and the images are boxes within that box, and all the text you see are also boxes inside that main page box, box, box, box, box this, box that, box salad, box and potatoes, box stew…. uh that’s about it, Forrest.

    box & potatoes, box soup, box gumbo, box & grits…
  7. We then started playing in Codepen and gave them a visual demonstration about how to setup basic header tags and how when you open a tag you ALSO have to close that tag.  And once we had some basic text on the page, we made that text different colors and changed the Left, Center, Right positioning on the page.
  8. Then we shifted gears, and showed them Chrome’s Inspect Element and how their favorite websites were just a TON of HTML boxes and CSS styles.  I witnessed some light bulbs turn on when this happened.
  9. Then one of the students recommended we check out Cookie Clicker and that was a bad idea because I lost control of the class for about 5 minutes and heard ~10,000 clicks in that period.  No more Cookie Clicker became Ground Rule #4.
  10. We wrapped up the class by giving a homework assignment of complete the first 2 modules in Codecademy’s HTML/CSS module AND to create a Codepen that included 5 of their favorite youTube video embeds (another thing we went over earlier in the class).

Overall I think the 1st class was a big success and every student walked away with learning at least one thing — that EVERYTHING IS A BOX!

but you already knew that by now…

{quick aside} – some of the students pulled us aside after class and asked for MORE work – so we told them to challenge themselves in Codepen and make a really awesome page that represents their 3 favorite hobbies.  I greatly look forward to what they come up with by next week’s class.

Becoming a Valuable Asset to the World

Here it is, 1:09pm on a Tuesday and I’m picking Jamaican curry lamb out of my teeth from the cafe next door.  Why?  Well for one, where else am I going to get delicious plantains in this city? More importantly though, I’m in downtown Atlanta at the new Iron Yard campus and it’s a great place to grab a quick bite.  Two weeks ago to the day I was accepted to their Front End Engineering program, a 12 week bootcamp to learn all things HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.  As far as software development and coding, I’m greener than a can of peas of St. Patrick’s Day and I’m here to blog about my journey from “zero to hero.”

Why am I even a part of this program? Call it a mid-20’s-life crisis, call it a career security blanket, the answer is: I’m not certain.  One thing I do know is I love the internet, what it represents for information exchange and making our world smaller, and I want to be a part of its continued future growth.  I also want to be able to bring my ideas to life!  There have been so many conversations with friends over ahem “coffee” that went something like this… “What would it be like if we made this?”  or “What if this app did less of this and more of this?”  or “Man I wish I could order a burrito easier…”  The point is, I’ve always surrounded my mind with thoughts of “what-if” yet have found that it rarely gets put into action.  It’s primarily because I feel like a child who can see the possibility of a K’NEX roller coaster – but doesn’t have the K’NEX roller coaster pieces to build it with! That’s where the Iron Yard experience comes in.

Look at how happy this child is! He had the tools to create his vision.

When the Campus Coordinator, Kyle Van Pelt, did the preliminary interviews he asked me point-blank – why do you want to be here?  And in that moment I told him the answer that I’m holding onto and will continue to hold onto.  I told Kyle, “I want to be a valuable asset to the world and bring my BIG ideas to life.”  And so far, we’ve been doing just that.  After only 6.5 days into the program we’ve built two webpages, pushed nearly 100 commits to GitHub, used the terminal more times than in the previous 26 years, constructed with HTML and CSS, and started a blog.  And we don’t even have those small initial heat bubbles showing at the bottom of this pot to boil.

This water is about to boil. It’s a metaphor for personal development, don’t you see?

I’m excited for my personal growth during this time, not just as a web/software engineer, but also as a man growing up into the person he’s always wanted to be.  Thanks for listening, tune in to see future posts.