Brant Kapple went into Dev/Iowa Bootcamp, a nine-week intensive web development program, with no web development experience and came out with an internship working for Cedar Rapids start-up NextStep.io.
Kapple is a University of Iowa senior majoring in math and computer science. Aware of the growing demand for web development in the workforce, he realized there were not many traditional classes in his major on the subject. Rather than try to learn web development on his own, he thought he would have more success within the structure of a class.
A typical day at Dev/Iowa starts off with a one- to two-hour lecture on concepts. Then students switch to hands-on learning, during which they reproduce what they learned in lecture. Topics include building static and interactive websites, web applications and the modern technologies for making them, as well as the fundamental concepts that allow developers to create new tools.
Dev/Iowa also brings in three to four mentors each week from software development companies in the area, providing an array of networking opportunities. Kapple said that was one of the most worthwhile aspects of the program.
“To be able to get coffee some day and see one of the mentors from this summer, and he also happens to have his own software company, and he also happens to be looking to hire four developers—those kind of relationships you can’t put a value on,” Kapple said.
“It doesn’t matter how good of a developer you are. If you don’t have those connections to people who need web developers, it’s just kind of wasted,” he added.
Kapple chose to work with one of the mentors, Chris Quartier from NextStep.io, for his client project at the end of the program. NextStep.io is a platform that allows users of fitness trackers such as FitBit and NikeJawbone to interact with health professionals one-on-one.
Kapple used the skills and technologies learned at Dev/Iowa to build a web app data visualization tool for the company that takes fitness data such as step counts to show users’ movement patterns.
After the project was over, Kapple continued working with the company, though his role has changed to doing more predictive data analysis, exposing trends to help the health professionals use their time more efficiently, spotting a potential “bad day” for users before it happens.
The internship is one Kapple is unlikely to have found without the skills and connections gained through Dev/Iowa.
Dev/Iowa is not just for university students, either. Kapple said there was a wide spectrum of students in his class, from students to those already in the workforce and hoping to pick up new skills.
“With the changing landscape of our economy, we’re seeing a lot of skills becoming outdated that were valued a decade ago,” Kapple said. “You can never predict the future but you can do the next best thing and make yourself as useful as possible, and I think Dev/Iowa helps add some skills to that.”
Dev/Iowa is offering a series of weeklong and weekend classes this fall. To sign up for courses or get more information, visit http://uipartners.uiowa.edu/deviowa.
Dev/Iowa is part of the UI Office of Research and Economic Development’s UI Partners program, established to help small Iowa companies innovate and grow by solving, among other things, their information technology (IT) challenges and providing advanced entrepreneurship and business training, primarily through Iowa Engagement Centers.
By Anne Easker