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Code for Philly / Hackathons / Women in tech

How Code for Philly is helping this student get her engineering certificate

Barb Donnini is spending the summer writing software for a civic hacking project. Code for Philly is offering her hands-on tech experience — and course credit — for the low, low price of wanting to learn.

Barb Donnini is getting her software engineering certificate at Blue Bell, Pa.’s Montgomery County Community College, but this summer the course offerings were slim.

So she found another way to get the credits and learn how to code: work on a project at Code for Philly, the local civic hacking group that meets every week.

Donnini, 24, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., got her statistics and economics degree at Penn State but wanted to learn how to code to open up more career options. She’s currently a statistician at a small independent consulting firm in Springfield, Pa.

Her professor, Kendall Martin, introduced her to Code for Philly, and that’s why, as part of an independent study, Donnini is spending the summer writing software for Climate Tracker, a project to collect climate and pollution data with devices attached to bikes and buses.

Follow Donnini's progress on her blog

Donnini said she’s leaning heavily on her team, led by technologist Josh Meyer, to help her write code. A lot of it is new to her: “I’ve never even heard the word Arduino before!” she wrote in an email.

“The value that Code for Philly adds to students taking classes is that it really pushes you to get it right,” Meyer wrote in an email. “Either the software works, or it doesn’t. It also makes you learn to deal with the cycle of excitement and tedium that are part of projects.”

Donnini’s story offers a glimpse at the local impact of Code for Philly, the roughly two-year-old meetup for civic technologists. The group isn’t only producing a handful of tools — like the education-focused greenSTEMnetwork and transit-oriented CyclePhilly — it’s also filling a gap in local tech education and offering hands-on experience to those who want to learn.

And, unlike school, it’s free.


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