ST. GEORGE — For 24 hours, Dixie State University’s Gardner Student Center was alive with activity Friday, thanks to 280 programmers and designers competing for bragging rights and tech prizes at the sixth annual Code Camp.
A programming, design and entrepreneurship contest all rolled into one, Code Camp gives those who are or aspire to be programmers, designers, entrepreneurs, project managers, mentors or investors 24 hours to build a program, app or product.
Participants started working on their projects at 8 a.m. Friday, and judging began at 8 a.m. Saturday. After delivering a short presentation to the panel of judges, teams, which range in size from one to four participants, are assessed on their projects’ complexity, completeness, aesthetics/design, uniqueness and viability.
Prizes include handmade quilts, blankets and oven mitts provided by local 4-H clubs, as well as tech-geek treasures for the winners.
Teams were placed into the following competitive groups:
- Industry teams | comprised of one or more full-time professionals
- Collegiate teams | comprised of enrolled college students
- Novice teams | comprised of participants exploring the industry and learning new techniques
- Rookie Kit teams | comprised of participants exploring the industry who want to base their project on the provided rookie kit
Within each track, teams choose one of four categories from which to compete: game, app, service or maker.
Code Camp started as a project initiated by SEED Dixie, a Southern Utah entrepreneurial program, and exists to build a pipeline of talented programmers. The camp is open to students who don’t have programming backgrounds and serves as an avenue for students to start learning programming at a young age — a move that makes the industry feel less daunting. Additionally, the program prepares youth for a profession that is in desperate need of qualified workers.
“How do we make the tech sector grow?” Matt Excell, a member of the Code Camp committee, asked when describing the impact Code Camp has on the local economy. “Well, we have to grow the pipeline. How do we grow that pipeline? We need start young. How do we feed into schools like Dixie and build their tech programs? If we do that, then we’re going to have entrepreneurial activity in the school.”
Six years in, the program is succeeding at building a pipeline. After only 13 participants attended the inaugural event, this year’s event features a maxed-out registration of 280 excited participants. In fact, when doors opened at 8 a.m. Friday, a line of participants had been eagerly waiting at the door since 6 a.m.
“Code Camp really pushes you to the limit and allows you to see what you can do within the time limit,” said 15-year-old McCade Larsen, Utah 4-H state officer and vice president of science who has been attending Code Camp for the last four years.
The program also aims to interest more females in the technology industry. Of the novice category, the boy/girl ratio is about 50/50, but when it comes to the professional track, the ratio is closer to 90/10, with men dominating the field. Organizers hope to attract females to the industry when they are young and keep them interested as they prepare to enter their careers.
Thanks to the hands-on approach of the local sponsors, participants have the opportunity to find job opportunities and business partners, launch businesses, build networks and make lasting memories.
Code Camp is entirely free to participants, thanks to the support of Platinum Sponsors Dixie State University, Durham, Jones & Pinegar, Tonaquint Data Center, busybusy, Site Select Plus, USTAR and iGlobal Stores; Gold sponsors Brand Iconic, Dixie State University’s Department of Computer and Information Technology, Dixie Applied Technology College, Rocketmade, SciTools, Washington City Economic Development, PrinterLogic, Generation Labs and Washington County; Silver Sponsors Outlier Labs, InfoWest, Aptivada, RxTrax, Midstream Logistics, Department of Workforce Services and Voxxy; and InKind Sponsors Utah State University Extension/4H, Pluralsight, weBoost and Rukkus Communication Strategies.
To learn more about Code Camp, visit their website.
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