Local High School and College Students Team Up at UAT for 24 Hours of Innovation
This Saturday, November 9th, students of all coding skill levels in the Phoenix area will gather on the campus of University of Advancing Technology (UAT) for CodeDay. This is a 24-hour event hosted nationally by SRND, where students are immersed in coding, build games and apps, learn a variety programming languages, participate in a cyber competition, attend workshops, present projects, and compete for awards and code-master bragging rights. The event is held three times a year to promote interest in programming and related STEM studies at a young age.
“Phoenix is seeing a 40% growth in tech jobs, so CodeDay attracts students that may have 0% interest until they’re exposed through events like this. We want to fix the pipeline issue with having enough tech workers to fill the demand that’s coming to the Phoenix area specifically”, says Jacy Smith, a well-connected local entrepreneur, Business Development Specialist for Perimeter83, Professor at UAT, and a long-time CodeDay Phoenix organizer, who UAT interviewed to gather insights to share with the local Phoenix community to boost awareness for future CodeDays.
CodeDay Phoenix events have brought in and connected up to 240 students at past events. Since focusing in on improving the quality of experience for students, the organizers have worked hard to strategically balance the three events throughout the year, and are expecting around 120 bright minds for the last CodeDay in 2019.
WHO PARTICIPATES AT CODEDAY?
CodeDay is generally attended by high school students, but middle schoolers, college students, and anyone under 25 can register to attend. It’s a great event for student programmers, artists, actors, and anyone that is interested in tech to come and participate.
Jacy emphasized that CodeDay is also a huge supporter of contributing to the increase of Women in STEM fields and Women in Tech. On average, around 40% of CodeDay attendees at each event are female, which is a great accomplishment for a tech-centric coding event. Jacy and her fellow CodeDay organizers work hard to keep the events demographically balanced, diverse, and inclusive. CodeDay national provides the organizing committee a dashboard to give them detailed insights on who is attending, and that’s how they are able to be proactive in promotion and recruitment efforts.
If you want to hone and test your coding or game design skills, learn a new programming language, app development, or practice public speaking and working with a team, and if you’ve never had any experience with coding but want to learn, CodeDay is the perfect place to go for a fun and fast deep-dive.
WHAT HAPPENS AT CODEDAY?
This weekend’s participants will arrive early on Saturday morning to get fueled up at UAT’s cafe, settle in, and then the kick-off begins in UAT’s innovation theater. Students will be greeted, the mission and opportunities of CodeDay will be presented, inspiration will be delivered, and teams — including any students that have attended alone — will get connected to one another. Following the kick-off, participants will attend workshops such as ‘Intro to Coding’, ‘Big Data’, ‘Project Management’, and more to get the fundamentals they need to begin their projects.
In the evening, students will team up to compete in an exciting, nation-wide cyber security competition, ‘Capture the Flag’. At 10:00 pm, halfway through the event, there will be a lively game tournament. Throughout the early morning, students will continue to work on game and app development projects and will be judged at Sunday’s awards ceremony at 10:00 am to then conclude the event.
For attending, other than the many awards that are given out, students earn a certificate and real-world production experience they can utilize for their resumes and portfolios.
WHY CODEDAY IS IMPORTANT FOR THE PHOENIX COMMUNITY
CodeDay is one of a few local resources for Phoenix students to come together and experience tech in a well-organized, real-world production environment; get exposure to coding, programming, and local tech talent from around the world; get access to potential mentors; learn about internships with companies; and be exposed to incredible community tech resources like UAT’s 100% STEM university campus.
“Getting students together to experience the combination of creativity, tech, innovation, and trying something new is what CodeDay is all about.”, stated Jacy Smith.
Within 24 hours, students are able to learn coding and new programming languages, compete and create projects in the topics of cyber security, video game production, and app development, hone skill-sets like design and project management, and pick up soft skills like leadership, collaboration, and public speaking. Another take-away is the opportunity to make friends and get kids connected to people within the tech community to support their growth and help get them where they want to go in life. The opportunity and impact for any one individual can be incredible and life-changing.
“Watching students have confidence to come in without knowing anything about coding and make something into a project that they present to judges on Sunday morning when they’re exhausted, but so excited about the work they’ve accomplished, what they’ve learned, and the opportunities ahead, is really something to see and be a part of, and why I continue to help put on this event. I’ve never missed one.”, said Jacy Smith.
Jacy shared several inspiring accounts of coding innovation she’s seen take place at past CodeDay Phoenix events over the last five years. Once, a group of middle school students who had never coded before won the ‘Best in Show’ award (most prestigious award at CodeDay) with a retro game they designed. At another event, a group of talented Physics students made an advanced calculator with a new programming language that they had learned at that very CodeDay, and it blew the judges and mentors away. Occurring before the widely-used ‘Neighborhood’ app was developed, a group of all female students built a similar app designed for those within their local communities to connect and easily report problems and discuss topics going on in their neighborhood in order to get issues resolved more quickly.
To get an idea of how CodeDay impacts students outside of the event, many that have competed have embarked down successful pathways they may not have had the opportunity to lead without an experience like this. Whether they’ve transitioned to advancing tech studies in high school, are earning their undergraduate or graduate degrees in STEM majors at elite tech universities like UAT, have created their own tech start-ups, or have gone on to be successful in high-paying and in-demand tech careers, they’re working toward filling in the tech-talent gaps that are currently and will continue to be an issue in the workforce.
For example, a returning CodeDay female participant currently enrolled at the Phoenix Coding Academy has started a non-profit that benefits local kids in need of school supplies and hygiene products. After high school, several students have been recruited from CodeDay events to college tech internships with progressive companies such as State Farm. And as one example of a career path, one previous CodeDay Phoenix participant is now a prime cyber defense expert for American Express, one of the largest banking organizations in the world.
HOW LOCAL TECH COMPANIES AND THE COMMUNITY CAN GET INVOLVED WITH CODEDAY PHOENIX
CodeDay continues to provide these amazing events and opportunities to promote interest and provide opportunities to students because of organizers like Jacy Smith and her CodeDay crew, as well as hosts like UAT, who is well-known in the community for moving the needle and getting kids excited about STEM careers through its advancing technology campus and innovative degrees, as well as sponsoring tech companies like State Farm, that provide mentors and volunteers from the local community.
“UAT has hosted CodeDay for us for several years and is one of the easiest and most advanced tech event spaces to work with in Phoenix,” said Jacy. “I’ve been working directly with them [event committee at UAT] for the last four years, and CodeDay is how I originally heard of UAT and got connected in its amazing tech community. It’s a really innovative campus and makes for an optimal CodeDay experience.”
State Farm has steadfastly provided industry experts as mentors and volunteers to CodeDay Phoenix, donates technology such as laptops for students to use at the events, and supports CodeDay significantly at the national level, allowing these events to continue across the nation.
Tech companies can join in to support the event by contributing to CodeDay Phoenix in small amounts like $250 or more, which also provides free marketing exposure. Tech companies can also provide tech mentors and volunteers to help with coordination and support students throughout the event, provide judges and/or promote internship opportunities with their company, and more.
The local community, tech-savvy or not, can volunteer by encouraging kids to register to attend, or adults can take on tasks like cooking for the attendees, making sure students are staying hydrated, taking registrations at check-ins, collecting waivers, and taking on a shift of supervising within the 24-hour event.
To get connected and support future CodeDay Phoenix events, please reach out to the organizing committee here!