Baltimore high-schoolers got a crash course in code. Now they have a game to work on - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Dec. 15, 2015 8:41 am

Baltimore high-schoolers got a crash course in code. Now they have a game to work on

#HackCarey offered lessons for 25 students, 21 of which were female.
Andy Felix (center) helps Western High School students Dana Wilson (left) and Mah Noor.

Andy Felix (center) helps Western High School students Dana Wilson (left) and Mah Noor.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Mah Noor was looking at a screen filled with code. Before Saturday, the Western High School student wasn’t familiar with programming languages. But she was still able to bring in something recognizable: a gleaming Cosmo, of Fairly OddParents fame, was her background GIF.

“You can also choose what you want the game name to be, and add a paragraph about it,” she said, momentarily minimizing the code to reveal words.

In fact, the game was a version of Flappy Bird. Along with 24 other Baltimore school students, Noor spent the day at Johns Hopkins’ Carey Business School learning the basics of web development. In all, 21 of the students were girls from Western High School. Poly and Digital Harbor High School were also represented. The event, in its second year, is dubbed #HackCarey.

After a morning of tutorials in JavaScript and HTML and a word of entrepreneurial inspiration from current Network for Good chairman and BillMeLater cofounder Vince Talbert, the students got a chance to begin building the games.

Before the event, Andy Felix of Deloitte worked on the framework that the students would use with a team of engineers from Mindgrub Technologies. Givol said they are willing to share if others are interested in running similar sessions.

“This is not high-school-level [instruction],” said Dan Givol, a Carey GMBA student who organized the event. “This is how you would build this game.”

Students get a lesson at #HackCarey.

Students get a lesson at #HackCarey. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

During the event, Felix and a total of 12 Mindgrub employees also served as mentors and instructors for the students.

Along with providing an introduction to coding, Givol said he is also motivated to draw attention to efforts create a “mid-level” of engineers in the country who may not all be superstar Stanford grads, but can make things on the internet.

Mindgrub CTO Sa’ad Raouf said the company was equally motivated to give back in Baltimore, where the software development firm recently relocated from Baltimore County.

“This is our next generation for the city of Baltimore and Maryland,” he said during a brief break from addressing the class. “This is how we start.”

Underscoring that the wider tech industry also sees that benefit, Facebook donated a total of 20 computers to the high schools.

Sitting next to Noor, Western High School classmate Dana Wilson said she’d never written code, but could immediately see the benefit.

“If you want to start a business from scratch, if you know all the code, you could make a website and it would be just like anyone else’s,” she said.

On her game, she swapped in an astronaut as the main player in the game, and the blocks were starting to populate the gameplay. But even after a full day, Wilson knew there were more improvements she could make. Fortunately, she and the other students saved the game so they could keep working on it.

“I’m going to go home and finish this now,” Wilson said.

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