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Northside Students Challenge the Coding Stigma at Code Day Chicago

Northside Students Challenge the Coding Stigma at Code Day Chicago

by Kenny Larson

As noted by many in the programming community, the stigma around coding is felt in many high school communities, including at Northside. Although some Northsiders enroll in computer science classes, oftentimes, they spend a little more than a year learning in the department, and the ones who choose to remain are those who were already interested in the topic. However, a group of Northside students have attempted to eradicate this “coding stigma,” forming the Coding Club earlier this October and hoping to make coding seem more fun and accessible to newcomers. On Nov. 10 and 11, the Coding Club took their mission one step further and visited Code Day Chicago for a 24 hour marathon of coding and programming.

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At Code Day, students from ages 12-25 arrive at a large workspace around noon to meet with other students from across the city. After a brief introduction time, students start the coding marathon with a “pitching” period where students offer ideas of projects they want to work on. Afterwards, other participants who are interested in assisting with a certain project meet up and begin coding their project. Throughout the remainder of the night, participants can attend specialized workshops to improve on their coding skills, as well as fun side-events to take a break from the coding. Anton Outkine, Adv. 009, mentioned that the side-events were one of his favorite parts. “My favorite part of Code Day was the community aspect,” said Outkine. “For example, we have karaoke at 1 a.m., which was pretty fun.”

Outkine, one of the founding members of the Northside Coding Club, also played a large role helping to coordinate and organize Code Day. “I did do a lot of sponsoring emails,” said Outkine, “I raised about $2000. I also helped coordinate the workshops so we get more coders connected.” One of the interesting aspects about Code Days, Outkine mentioned, was that they are completely student run. Although he conceded that the regional manager for Code Days in the Chicagoland area was a college student, he emphasized that youth coders are in the large part responsible for carrying out and executing the event. “Youths actually organize all of it. We were all doing it by ourselves.” 

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Part of the coding stigma that many high school students feel towards coding is that it is too difficult to understand and become involved in. As a result, many students choose not to participate in any coding events or classes. Outkine, however, clarified that Code Day was a prime example of making coding more accessible to those who feel like it is too challenging. “Code Day is mostly oriented toward new coders,” said Outkine. “We have a very sophisticated level of workshops set up for every level.” One of the drawbacks, according to Outkine, is that twenty-four hours of code is simply not enough time to make someone an expert coder or resolve all the difficulties they may have with coding. “It is important to remember that Code Day isn’t supposed to make you a master coder. Code Day is supposed to make you realize that coding is cool and fun,” said Outkine.

Outkine agreed that the coding stigma was felt around Northside and inhibited a lot of students from wanting to participate in coding events. Code Day, he hoped, would help to alleviate some of this stigma and draw more students into coding events. “At Code Day, the opposite [of the coding stigma] is proved.” said Outkine.  “When you come in, there are people the same as you… and you start working on something. The combination of community involvement and informalness makes it a very good event to break the stigma.”

For students interested in participating in the next Code Day (February 17 and 18 of next year), Outkine highly recommends joining the Northside Coding Club, although clarifying that it is not a requirement to participate. “NCP is a great way to prepare for Code Day… It’s good to get into the swing of things beforehand.” For more information, visit the Northside Coding Club website (www.ncpcode.org) or the Code Day website (www.codeday.org/chicago).

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