Published: 02/09/2022

It’s Wednesday afternoon in sunny Golden, Colorado. Presently a high of 50 degrees with a light wind from a westerly heading. As I sit in my wife’s office, I relax at the sound of children screaming, pianos being played poorly and most of all, an ever present fear of the virus; the covid 19 virus coming from the cesspool that is a public school.

My wife is a 1st through 6 and a high school special education teacher. She works with children, teaching them to read, do math among many other things. It’s good work, but not something I could do all day, everyday. No thanks. A bit too much and too stressful. Why am I sitting in her office at 2:50 pm on a Wednesday afternoon? I should be working after all. I’m here because I just wrapped up my “AWOL”. No, I’m not in the military nor did I go off the reservation. No, Awol is basically outside of the classroom learning. It has an official acronym, but I can’t remember it.

My AWOL this year is teaching high-school students all about software development. I started with them in August. We went WAY too fast and I had to quickly adjust. These students are kind and polite which has been wonderful. They quickly complained and within two weeks we were taking things more slowly.

Teaching these high school students seemed like it could be a chore, some people think it could be. But I love it and enjoy it. It has sharpened my thinking, clarified ideas in my head and helped me refine my communication skills.

What are we doing? Well, I first taught them JavaScript with some jQuery mixed in for some help to get ideas across. I didn’t want to teach them all about the DOM and interactions with the browser and events and all that right away. We focused on a few key things:

  1. Getting data from an API
  2. Sending data to an API
  3. Showing data on a screen in the form of a table or list

We quickly covered HTML and CSS as well. I taught them all about flex box, layouts, colors, design and even different HTML elements. We built some silly and simple web apps, we integrated with APIs and we had a ton of fun doing it. I’m glad it’s not over yet.

Teaching these kids has shown me again why I love development and why I became a developer myself. These kids are ultra nerdy; one guy knows far too much C++ than a kid his age should and another is a 3d modeler that spends most of our time in AutoCad and not learning about coding. But they are all really smart.

Where am I going with them? Our goal is to build a mobile application for a local non profit, Feel The Beat dance studio. FTB creates dance floors where people who are deaf or hard of hearing can feel the vibration in the fool to feel what music feels like to them. They have programs for all sorts of people and ages.

Our application is going to be a React Native application built to run on iOS and Android. We have about 4 months before we want to launch the application and we are getting into the meat; the nuts and bolts of building software. Last week I covered Git, Github and the command line. This week we spent the day installing NodeJS and command line tools for the RN build pipeline we’re going to be using (Expo.Dev).

I’m really excited about this project and the future it holds. I’m excited to share the results and progress of what we build together here and with the world.

If you’re a professional software engineer, please get involved and teach a programming class in your local community or school; for free. Give away your time and knowledge, you will find it to be more rewarding then money and bring you more joy to your life then any job ever could.