Computer Science Club Kicks Off Weekly CodeJam Initiative
Issue   |   Wed, 04/08/2015 - 00:40

The Amherst College Computer Science Club held its first weekly CodeJam event on Monday, April 5 in Seeley Mudd. The purpose of CodeJam is to provide an opportunity on campus for computer science students to improve their applied computer skills through hands-on work, such as building websites and mobile apps.

CodeJam was organized by the Computer Science Club’s executive board members and CodeJam subcommittee organizers Evelyn Ting ’17, Chloe Revery ’16 and Thomas Lam ’18.

Megan Lyster, the director of innovation programs at the Center for Community Engagement, collaborated with the club to help organize the event and generate ideas for potential projects for students to develop at the event. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Crystal Valentine also worked with the club and helped establish the connection between the club and the Center for Community Engagement.

Although the college offers a computer science major, there are currently few opportunities on campus for developing practical computer science skills.

“Amherst’s computer science is a theory-based program. Amherst will not teach a computer language that is in vogue at the moment; rather, they want to equip you with theoretical foundations,” Computer Science Club board member and computer science major Revery said.

“This is a great opportunity for students not only to hone their technical skills, but also to gain experience designing and developing a product that will be used by someone else,” Lyster said.

Event organizer Evelyn Ting ’17 said she hoped to help create a community of collaboration. “It’s really exciting to do something together that we are so passionate about,” Ting said. “In this type of setting, students will be able to turn to each other for help when questions or issues arise,” she said.

Lyster also said she sees benefits to such collaboration.

“I see CodeJams as a potential incubator for creative ideas and collaborative problem solving, and I’m excited to see what gets generated. I’m happy to speak with students who come up with an idea and would like to talk about how they might move that idea forward,” she said.

In addition to creating a space for students to pursue independent projects, the CodeJam organizers also intend to work with the Center for Community Engagement to code websites and to help student groups on campus that need to build websites or apps.

With the start of the weekly event, students will be able to take ideas and work on them throughout the week. “We are hoping that students work on their projects during the week, and then bring questions and ideas to the weekly sessions,” Revery said.

The club hopes for CodeJam to expand to a biweekly event.

“I think there’s so much for students to gain from this initiative-experience working on real-world, real-time challenges and projects, peer-to-peer learning and support, cultivating a social space in which to practice technical skills and offering a valuable and in-demand service to the community,” Lyster said.