‘If you’re here to win, you’re in the wrong place’: Southern Utah Code Camp welcomes newcomers, pros

ST. GEORGE — Josh Beitler had a full-circle moment when he took the stage at this year’s Southern Utah Code Camp in the Vasion gym.

Josh Beitler helps a group of young coders at the 2021 Southern Utah Code Camp in the Vasion Gym, St. George, Utah, Nov. 12, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

Beitler, project manager at Zonos, had participated in Code Camp as a young man. He started by watching his uncle design a calculator app. Then, after reading every book about coding he could get his hands on, Beitler won a series of prizes.

“There were no online resources for this in 2010,” Beitler told St. George News. “I was self-taught. I was making web pages on my own machine. It’s funny, but you didn’t need the Internet to make things for the Internet.”

When Beitler attended Pine View High School, a teacher suggested that he do an internship at Velocity Webworks. After one Code Camp, Beitler complained that the judging could be done better.

Organizers took Beitler at his word and invited him to judge a competition, which ultimately taught Beitler to be careful what you wish for, he said.

File photo of Zonos Chief of Staff Joshua Aikens at the Tech Ridge open house, St. George, Utah, Sept. 21, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“I’m joking,” Beitler added. “It’s been a blast. And it led to Clint Reid offering me a job at Zonos.”

Zonos Chief of Staff Joshua Aikens said that Reid’s offer to Beitler was a beautiful thing.

“It’s an example of St. George’s ability to keep the best and brightest here,” Aikens told St. George News. “He could’ve gone anywhere.”

And Aikens was not only looking for untapped talent at Code Camp, he was there to nurture his own.

“I’ll be staying for the duration,” he said, “because my 13-year-old son is participating.”

The camp’s schedule includes a full day for younger participants, and a 24-hour round of activity for older, more experienced coders to finish their projects. These include everything from video games, which are popular, to apps used to analyze blood sugar for diabetics.

Gerrod Nelson, a member of Team Without a Cool Acronym, at the 2021 Southern Utah Code Camp in the Vasion Gym, St. George, Utah, Nov. 12, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

While coding remains a valuable skill for those looking to break into the tech world, Aikens was quick to point out that coding is finding its way into countless daily activities.

“Increasingly, doctors, educators and lawyers are using code,” Aikens said. “It isn’t just software. It’s in everything.”

And Code Camp, which Aikens called the capstone experience of a year-round slate of coding activities, is a pipeline for recruiters to plug in to new talent.

“And this is not just a romantic notion,” Aikens said. “Beitler is a perfect example of that, as are any number of other people here right now.”

More than 250 contestants working at the 2021 Southern Utah Code Camp in the Vasion Gym, St. George, Utah, Nov. 12, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

Contestants in divisions ranging from beginner to industry were given eight to 24 hours to complete projects in categories like “game,” “app,” and “maker.” Each project was judged on its commercial viability, completeness, design and originality. Prizes included Yoda action figures, board games and Nintendo Switches.

But Zonos Director of Education and Development Jamie Lords said that contestants don’t come for the prizes.

“This event is really about destigmatizing programming,” Lords told St. George News. “We want to promote the tech community as a whole. We want to network. Recruiters take note of and develop connections with even the young ones.”

“If you’re here to win,” he added, “you’re in the wrong place.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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