Orlando Code Camp Logo

As a current student at Seminole State College pursuing a degree in the IT field, all of my professors have been encouraging my classmates and I to attend this year’s Code Camp. Code Camp is hosted by SSC at the Sanford/Lake Mary campus and is presented by members of the Orlando .NET User’s Group (ONETUG). It’s sponsored by a whole host of technology companies, and if the handouts I was given are any indication they are really interested in hiring the sort of people that attend this sort of event.

I was expecting most of the attendees to be SSC students such as myself, however very few of the attendees were Seminole students (or students at all). Many appeared to be industry professionals who had driven (or possibly flown?) into the area to attend the event. This was really driven home when I sat in on the “Understanding MVC for Line of Business Development” seminar where, if not for the presenter’s very young son having to sit through his father’s lecture, I probably would have been the youngest person in the room by about 15-20 years (not that this is really proof they weren’t students – I’ve had classmates in their 80’s).

I did see others I recognized students, even a few I know from a class that I serve as a Teacher’s Aid for (and the professor for that class). It had just never occurred to me that this was not a “College Event,” but rather a public event using the college as its venue. It made sense once I actually considered it, but it was completely unexpected. Also, I’ve actually attended a ONETUG meeting in the past and it was nothing like that either (That’s a story for another day, probably sub-titled “Wherein I become lost in City Hall in the middle of the night”).

My Code Camp Agenda

The seminars offered were divided into blocks of time 50 minutes long, with multiple sessions taking place at once, making it necessary to pick and choose. I decided to go with a selection of both beginner and advanced courses, mostly oriented around things that interest me or which I thought would be the most beneficial.

Here’s what my schedule looked like:

9:00 AM – 9:50 AM

Data Binding in JavaScript with Knockout – Dave Nicolas

10:00 AM – 10:50 AM

Introducing ASP.NET MVC4, HTML5 and jQuery Mobile for Today’s Web Developer – Sam Abraham

11:00 AM – 11:50 AM

Create Android Apps with Mono for Android – Joel Martinez

1:00 PM – 1:50 PM

Understanding MVC for Line of Business Development – Greg Leonardo

2:00 PM – 2:50 PM

Git – For Windows Users – Ovidiu Dimulescu

3:00 PM – 3:50 PM

Database Design Disasters – Richie Rump

4:00 PM – 4:50pm

How to Create Your Own jQuery Plugins and UI Widgets – Sasha dos Santos

As you can see there’s a definite focus on JavaScript here. I almost didn’t pick the last one on the list because it seemed like something I could pretty easily teach myself. However, as I’m working with JavaScript and jQuery so much more since I started working here at KMDG I decided I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have it explained to me. Often when I teach myself things I worry that I’m not getting all the information on the subject because I either don’t know where to look or don’t know what questions to ask (Google). In this case, I probably should have stuck with my original pick… The seminar itself was fine, but it mostly served to show me that I was right in my original assessment.

On the other hand, the first two classes were pretty interesting. I’ve never worked with Knockout .js or jQuery Mobile, and these served as good “Crash Course” introductions to both. I wasn’t particularly interested in the Microsoft specific parts of the mobile class as I do practically no ASP.NET development, but I maintain a policy of soaking up as much info as mentally (and physically) possible on the off chance it will someday be useful – often it is.

Android development is something that I’ve been interested in for a while but have had no time to pursue, so I decided this class would be a good investment for a time in the future when I can devote some real attention to it. Likewise the Mono framework is something that I’ve been interested in. I had read a few articles on Mono recently and wanted to see it in action. This class did not disappoint. I’m not very familiar with C#, but in this case I was more interested in the process and development environment (Xamarin Studio), both of which were shown to my satisfaction.  The presenter of this course was very good and made the material very easy to understand. He also wins the award for “Most impressive qualifications” (come to think of it, he actually neglected to mention that he had founded the group responsible for the event…).

The Git and MVC seminars I attended for basically the same reason – my biggest weakness as a programmer is my lack of formal training. I can teach myself just about anything, and have only gotten better at doing so over time, but working alone and teaching yourself leads to very insular thinking and behaviors. I’ve never used version control before working at KMDG because I’ve never had to work with other programmers and could easily revert changes with CTRL+Z or at worst, by restoring a manual backup (which I make out of habit/paranoia anyway). I’ll also often encounter concepts which are taught in classes and used in professional environments that I had no clue existed until the moment someone asks me about it (sometimes I’ll know the concept, but not that it has a name). This is actually the primary reason why I decided to go back to school instead of just continuing my self-education while pursuing my career. Therefore, any time I get a chance to have someone actually teach me one of these skills or concepts I leap at it.

And the award for best actor goes to…

Of all the sessions I sat in on, one stood out. I knew the moment I entered the room that it was going to be different – mostly because all the seats were already taken and people were already lining up against the back wall. I took my place at the back and watched for another five to ten minutes as people continued to file in… and in… and in…

In the end people were seated on nearly every available surface, standing against the walls and in the doorway. This was not the largest room by any means, but it was definitely the most densely packed – who would have guessed Database Management would be such a popular topic?

As it turns out, I think the crowd came more for the presenter than subject matter. He was so high energy and so enthusiastic that he managed to turn one of the most boring subjects I can think of into an utterly fascinating presentation. It was by far the most enjoyable session of the event and also one of the most accessible – A friend of mine who is not a programmer but who has had the basic database management class offered at Seminole was also in attendance and remarked with no small amount of pleasure that he had understood everything that had been said. I was very impressed by his presentation and would go so far as to say that even if the other classes had not been informative, his would have made the day worthwhile on its own.

Code Camp 2014

Having experienced it and knowing what I know now, I’ll definitely be attending the next Code Camp. It was not what I was expecting, but it was worthwhile. There are things I would do differently both in preparation and during the event that I think would make it even better. There are also things I think ONETUG could do to improve things though – for example, the sessions felt too short and there wasn’t a lot of time for questions or discussion. I think this might work better as a two day event with slightly longer sessions; the classes could be mirrored on both days so that people could attend class on the second day that share a time block with a class they took on the first day, or there could just be more classes offered and only a select few popular sessions offered at multiple times.

Overall it was a very positive and eye-opening experience. Plus, they gave us a free lunch, and as a poor college student that’s enough incentive to get me to show up right there – anything else is just a bonus!