The first experience of walking into a gymnasium of kid coders is overwhelming, it feels like a middle school pep rally mixed with all common anxiety of youth. Codeday Arizona had organized the 24 hour gathering and done an amazing job at getting a ton of students motivated to learn one of the most important skills in their lives : Development!
As a mentor my role was to help the students when issues arose. Problems manifested themselves from the trivial, ‘Can we move a table,’ to the more complicated, ‘How do we move gigs of unity assets between each other on a slow wireless network?’
One of the most important pieces of mentoring though is making some kind of impact on someone just getting into the motions of coding. For me this manifested itself in a quiet 10 year old girl. She had been struggling to build an html template for her groups social media application, and was banging her head against overcomplicated tutorials and the limited instructions received in school.
The first couple of questions were easy, ‘how do I put things in the center of the page?’ After a couple hours the questions became more complicated but ever so patient. She continued to hunt me down in a building full of mentors to bring me back to help her with her problems.
Seeing the first look of someone deeply understanding something is worth hours on your feet, a Saturday not spent at home sleeping and missing a couple tall beers by the pool. She struggled with two divs that were holding the same information, and up to this point she was using inline styles in order to style each one.
“You mean I have to copy each style each time for each div?” she asked pensively annoyed with how bad she thought HTML was.
“What if you used a class instead?” I asked.
“I dunno what that is.” she said as she continued to copy and paste inline styles in Phpstorm.
I pointed to the screen and explained how creating a style tag and assigning a ‘class’ to the div would reduce the need to write inline styles that are the same thing over and over again.
“So… that is why you use a class…” she said as her face lit up and she began furiously deleting inline styles.
I worked with her until I had to leave that night and her code was already improving drastically, inline styles were gone, css was improving and the layout was more maintainable. When I had to leave for the night I felt disappointed that I couldn’t see her journey continue but I knew that I given her the right push to start building even more amazing stuff.
Codeday Arizona is coming up again on February 13th-14th 2016. I highly recommend that you take a couple hours out of your day to help mentor the future developers of Arizona (and other states!) and help them have memorable life changing experiences with a few lines of thoughtful code.