Week 8


Above: Ben, the office pup, distracting me from a lecture.

Just in time, here’s my Week 8 Post! We have now officially entered Senior Phase, which is much less structured. So this blog post will be less/differently structured to match.

Senior Phase 

Junior phase followed a daily pattern of lecture -> workshop -> review -> lecture -> workshop -> review. The workshops were very scaffolded and, based on the lectures, we knew pretty much exactly what to expect. The longest workshop would be about 6 hours.

Senior phase is much more open ended. There are only three large projects in senior phase, and we are given basically the entire day to work on them uninterrupted. Although there are still lectures and scaffolding (at times, more than I would like), it has been great to get really invested in a project, make a plan for it, and see it through without step-by-step instructions. On the whole I have felt much more relaxed and engaged.

We also start each day in senior phase with REACTO, a daily white-boarding practice. We are given an algorithm problem, and take turns pretending to “interview” each other, while the other person solves the problem on a whiteboard without the help of a computer. This is a crucial interview skill and has been pretty fun so far, although I’m hoping for some tougher problems!

The Project

This week we are all working on the same project, which is affectionately named “Grace Shopper.” We have been instructed to make an online shopping website (we can be “selling” anything) that allows users to browse, create an account, log in, add items to their cart, and checkout. It is a very thorough review of everything we learned in junior phase, from databases to front-end design.

We were assigned teams of 3-4, and I got lucky with mine. We have been getting along great and working very well together. We have decided to pair program, swapping partners every day or so. Even though that seems like it would cut our woman power in half, it has ended up being very efficient, since we keep each other focused and catch each other’s mistakes, usually, before they spiral out of control. We have decided to make a fake online farmers market, since one of our teammates lives on a farm in New Jersey and has tons of beautiful photos. Look out for the finished project here soon — it is due Wednesday!

Key Takeaway 

By far the most essential thing I have learned this week is Git, a system that allows multiple people to work on the same project, track changes, and merge different branches of work together. As you can imagine, this gets pretty complicated, and I have started to understand some more advanced techniques so that I don’t have to freak out right away when I get an error message. This is a pretty big life skill for a programmer, so I’m glad to be building it now.

 

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Goals for Review Week

Week 7 at Grace Hopper is Review Week, a time to take a few assessments and independently study anything that might be useful for the upcoming project phase. This is my to-do list to keep myself on track!

UPDATE: Looking back after the end of review week, here’s how I did.

  1. Complete the ES6 Codeschool course
  2. Brainstorm million-dollar web app ideas
  3. Get to 4 kyu on codewars
  4. Venture above 45th street
  5. Make a Chrome web extenstion
  6. Watch some videos of old Grace Hopper tech talks and come up with a good topic
  7. Blog about how easy and beautiful it is to make a search bar in Angular I decided to write about the beauty of ES6 instead 

Grace Hacker

IMG_2674.JPG

Last Saturday, a few of my classmates and I decided to attend the Clarifai Artificial Intellegence Hackathon. Due to a bit of week-4 exhaustion, I am just now writing about it, and it’s going to be a pretty short post. One of my teammates from the hackathon wrote a really great article about it on her blog, and I recommend checking that out as well!

A hackathon is an event where developers (or sometimes non-developers) come together and create a project in a fixed amount of time, usually with presentations and prizes at the end. This hackathon was 12 hours, and the prizes were lighthearted (most secretly evil, most likely to slow human progress). My team took home the latter prize for a project called miss-direction, a chrome extension that you can sneakily download on your friend’s computer, and every time they try to get directions on google maps, they will instead get directions somewhere a few blocks away. I was lucky to have a very strong team, one of my classmates and one Grace Hopper alumna, who kept me grounded around hour 6 of straight coding when I started to hit a wall.

Some cool things about the hackathon:

  • There was almost too much free food
  • We got close to doing something that I would actually call hacking – manipulating the Google Maps API to do something it wasn’t intended to do. Turns out google is really good at preventing you from messing with its stuff. But we beat it!
  • We were in the General Assembly (another bootcamp) offices, which are beautiful. They use ipads for things that we use post-it notes for at Grace Hopper. Plus, they have a giant chalk drawing of Bill Nye.
  • The guy sitting next to us was using virtual reality goggles for his project and we got to try them on.

Foundations

Blueberry smoothie and a page from Eloquent Javascript
My typical workspace. Blueberry smoothie and a smoothie-stained printout of Eloquent Javascript.

I recently completed Week 3 of Foundations, which is the remote course that makes up the beginning of the Grace Hopper curriculum. We are spending this time building a strong foundation of knowledge so that we can get started right away with the tougher and more interesting stuff when we arrive on campus.

In order to be accepted at Grace Hopper, you already have to have a pretty good grasp of the basics of programming (loops, arrays, functions, recursion) and be confident enough in your abilities to complete some tricky challenges in a timed test. So far in Foundations, we have reviewed those topics on a much deeper level than I originally learned them. I thought I knew what an array could do, for example, but I had only scratched the surface before now. The major themes so far have been object-oriented programming and inheritance, but I’m not going to try to explain that here, check out my links if you’re curious!

The structure of the online course is a combination of videos recorded by Grace Hopper and Fullstack Academy instructors, followed by coding challenges. One recent coding challenge involved rewriting some common methods that are built into JavaScript, which I found to be a really helpful exercise. There are also a number of outside resources that we are expected to complete. We all have access to Codeschool, which is an extremely informative (if a little dry) tool for learning a variety of coding skills. Codeschool has been our main source for lessons on HTML/CSS, and even though I thought I was relatively experienced in that area, I still learned a lot from the tutorials.

The foundations instructors have been very responsive and helpful. There is an online forum where we can communicate with them as well as with fellow students, and I’ve been able to get all my questions answered pretty quickly.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed foundations a great deal, but I can’t wait to get on campus and start learning around other people who will shame me if I spend too much time on Facebook or take a break to watch 3 episodes of Sex and the City.

p.s. One of our assignments was to make a simple guessing game to practice our html/css. I find it weirdly fun to play. Check mine out here!

Hello!

Hello friends, prospective coding Bootcamp students, complete randos, mom. The last time blogged, I was writing about my super fun times studying architecture in Copenhagen in the fall of 2013. Since then, I have performed a number of 180-degree career pivots, involving a two-year stint as a math teacher, and have now landed at the precipice of something very exciting.

I have been toying with the idea of a career in computer programming ever since I took my first (and only) official computer science course as a freshman in college. On and off since then I have become engrossed with codeacademy courses, coding challenges, and even applied to a different Bootcamp two years ago, only to back down because I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right path for me. I finally got serious late this winter when I ran into my Ghost of Christmas Future (long story) at a board game café and had one of those sudden moments of clarity.

I started Free Code Camp* shortly after that, and soon found myself hiding in the teacher’s lounge working on coding projects while I was supposed to be doing my real job. I took this as a good sign, and applied for some in-person coding Bootcamps so that I could take this thing to the next level. Ultimately, I decided on Grace Hopper Academy, which is where I am now.

Well, not physically. The first four weeks are remote, and I will write a little more about what I have been working on during this segment in my next post. For now this post is plenty long, I personally rarely read more than three paragraphs of anything on the internet. Join me on my journey through learning to code and living in New York for the first time! I promise to keep it brief and witty while also insightful and informative, you know how I am. Thanks for reading.

*For anyone out there interested in learning to code or do web development, I simply cannot recommend Free Code Camp enough as a place to start. They walk you through the basics of HTML/CSS and Javascript, then set you loose on projects that build a ton of independence and real-life skills. The community is also great and extremely helpful. Definitely check it out.