SLO Partners, in partnership with CodeSLO, hosted San Luis Obispo County’s first ever “Community Hackathon” with the support of several local tech companies, including WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Ulzi, StreamGuys, iFixit and IQMS. Fifteen teams competed, which were made up of students from the CodeSLO Boot camp Pre-work for Ticket Into Tech & Fullstack@SLO.The class included everyone from recent high school graduates and single moms, to working professionals and students currently enrolled at Cal Poly and Cuesta College.
Contestants showcased the skills they’ve learned in just five weeks of evening classes. The winning team built a music video jukebox which streamed live data from Google’s YouTube API. This entry impressed the judges with its polished appearance and a technical sophistication, which was far above what they expected from a group that had only been coding a few weeks; especially considering they only had eight hours to complete their project.
The tech industry in SLO has seen rapid growth in recent years due in large part to the bustling startup scene and larger tech firms moving into the area like Amazon. This has in turn led to a surge in demand for local tech workers, a need the Ticket into Tech program is helping to meet. The Hackathon showcased what can be achieved after just 40-hours of coding training. Prior to starting the class, less than 10 percent of students had any significant coding experience, which demonstrates the effectiveness of boot camp-style training for software programs.
Elan Timmons, Co-Founder at Ulzi said, “Today’s hackathon was fantastic. I was particularly impressed by the teams that implemented something they hadn’t learned in class. They taught themselves new programs and languages on the day which showed great initiative and skill, especially given the fact they’ve only had 40 hours of training.
“It’s extremely valuable that we have a program like this is SLO. Ticket into Tech and the Hackathon are a great way to create and showcase the local talent available to us. More important than talent, you also find people that are passionate about learning something new and changing their career path, which is appealing to us. Knowledge isn’t’ too relevant as you get a lot of on the job training, so knowing they have that attitude and ambition is key.”
Dan Blike, Lead Software Engineer at IQMS said, “The Hackathon shows why boot camp-style training programs are so effective for technology. They essentially throw all the information at you so you can see what sticks and what peaks your interest. A lot of people don’t know what they like about tech until they experience it. It’s also hard to see why the theory and curriculum matters until you start building something, so it provides that much needed context.
“A lot of the teams today realized important industry lessons that you wouldn’t necessarily get from a class, such as biting off more than you can chew, working in a group and dividing up tasks. There are really no limitations of where technology can exist and expand a business so creating more tech professionals can only help the local community. What’s great about CodeSLO and the Ticket into Tech program is that they cut through the barrier of entry to set everyone up for success.”
Rich Howe VP Engineering at WhiteFox Defense Technologies said, “Recruiting in the local area has been very challenging. We currently have an extremely low unemployment rate so it’s been hard finding people. For this reason, the Ticket into Tech program has been especially valuable in helping us meet our talent needs. Last fall we hired a student from the program and he’s been fantastic, he’s at the core of the QA team and has been a great addition to our company.
The main benefits of having an apprentice is that we’re able to train them in the procedures we want and tailor their skills to our needs. It’s worked so well that we’re currently working on hiring more full stack developers and QA technicians.”
AJ Kang, a member of the winning team ‘T-Rex Creators’ said: “It feels both great and overwhelming to have won the hackathon. I didn’t have any coding experience when I started the CodeSLO class so it was my first time working with a team to build and accomplish something, which felt great and has boosted my confidence. I’d definitely recommend this program to anyone curious or interested in tech as it’s a great opportunity to learn lessons and then apply them in friendly and encouraging environment.
“Learning to code has been a fantastic improvement in my life. It’s showed me I can do things I couldn’t do before and it’s already opening doors which is fantastic. I hope there are more towns and cities that have programs like this because we need to retrain our workforce to ensure everyone can benefit from technology.”
Michael Specchierla, Executive Director at SLO Partners says, “The event today demonstrates how much can be learned in just a short period of time, which is why boot camp-style programs are ideal for technology education. It’s a huge benefit for local business that we have this program in SLO to produce much needed local talent. Pairing training with real-world experience and challenges that students don’t normally get access to in the classroom provide much needed context and confidence which create the best candidates.”
Matt West, President at CodeSLO said, “I was most impressed by the fact that 90 percent of the class had no significant coding experience before starting which meant they had to go from ground zero to building a working application in a day. They also had to do this as a team which can be harder than working on your own. And they did, they built working applications and dealt with the stress of the day really well and I think this demonstrates that they all have really bright futures.”
For more information about SLO Partners and the Ticket into Tech program visit www.slopartners.org/ticket-into-tech.
About Ticket into Tech
Ticket into Tech, created by SLO Partners in 2017, aims at creating 1,000 new head-of-household careers in the technology industry in the San Luis Obispo region. With our mantra, “Screen for Attitude, Train for Aptitude,” we take a proven apprenticeship model, that pairs leading-edge classes with on-the-job training, and turn passion into a fulfilling career.
Financing for the Fullstack boot camps is available through FullstackAcademySLO.Skills.Fund.
We do not discriminate based upon race, religion, color, national origin, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, status as a protected veteran, status as an individual with a disability, or any of the other important characteristics that make us unique and valuable.
About SLO Partners
SLO Partners was formed under the aegis of the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education in 2014 to address college and career readiness among the county’s student population. SLO Partners’ mission is to engage business partners and educators in aligning workforce needs with career and college pathways and provide work experience opportunities to ensure that students have the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the workplace and businesses have the skilled workers required for a sound growing economy. SLO Partners is committed to collaborating with local businesses and education for pathways to opportunity and skilled local talent.