I was in Chicago last week for CodeAcademy‘s (.org, not .com) demo day, and I was blown away.  CodeAcademy is an intense, 12-week program that teaches web application (Ruby on Rails) and web design skills to people with a wide variety of backgrounds (including many without a technical background).

I met one of CodeAcademy’s founders, Neal Sales-Griffin back in December at a CodeNow event; and was excited to hear about the organization that he had created.  I was blown away when I went to see it in action — CodeAcademy has brought today great teachers; a powerful network of volunteer mentors; and a diverse, impressive set of students.  Last week’s demo evening, which was presented to a packed house, included 3 minutes presentations from all students and some of the teachers.  Some of the students focused the many things they’ve learned, and many showed off projects they’ve been working on including some impressive web applications including:

There were some great insights from the students and teachers at the event, including:

  • When you love creating things, doing anything else isn’t fulfilling
  • The collaborative learning of CodeAcademy had some impressive results — like the creation of utility apps like http://cssbits.herokuapp.com/
  • You have to be 10 times better than the current solution to get people to change their behavior
  • Simple doesn’t mean dumb in design, it means elegant design
  • Know your users (reminds me greatly of my time recently at Lean Startup Machine DC)
  • One of the students was inspired to pursue CodeAcademy by hearing about @dhh buying a Lamborghini
  • The HTML/CSS teacher, Shay Howe, has an awesome, free set of HTML/CSS tutorials at http://learn.shayhowe.com/html-css/
  • Carolyn Chandler’s presentation on design was awesome

FYI:  DevBootCamp in San Francisco and Hungry Academy in DC are similar to CodeAcademy, but each have their own business model and culture.

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