Coding For All: Makersquare Aims to Expand the Programming Corps

Ravi Parikh was a health IT student at the University of Texas at Austin, which has one of the top computer science departments in the country.

“They were teaching us about how IT worked, and how to sell and implement it, but they weren’t teaching us how to write the code,” he says. “UT doesn’t teach Web development in the computer science degree. I wanted to learn how to code.”

That realization led him and three friends—one had worked for Teach for America, another gave up a job at Facebook—to start “the course we wish we would have attended,” in the form of Makersquare. The Austin, TX-based coding school aims to bridge the gap between formal educational programs that teach higher-level thinking and the day-to-day programming skills needed by technology companies.

“College computer science classes … don’t focus on current tools and best practices,” says Josh Baer, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Austin’s Capital Factory who is a Makersquare advisor. “My computer science degree made it so that I can teach myself programming languages. But it didn’t really teach me the programming languages, which will change over time.”

Code schools are a booming business. The number of graduates of such bootcamp programs is expected to jump to nearly 6,000 people this year compared to nearly 2,200 in 2013, according to the Course Report, an online database of coding schools.

Just a few weeks ago, the educational behemoth Kaplan announced it was buying Dev Bootcamp, a two-year-old San Francisco provider of programming classes. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Makersquare graduated its first cohort of students last June in Austin and opened a San Francisco campus soon after, serving about 200 students on both campuses. I met Parikh recently while he was in Houston doing some reconnaissance and preparation as the startup plans to start classes here in Houston in September at the co-working space Start Houston.

Programming isn’t of interest only to those on the technical side, Parikh says. Makersquare is seeing enrollment from people in HR, accounting, and recruiting. “Technology is in every single industry across the board at this point,” he says.

Here is a condensed version of our conversation:

Xconomy: What does Makersquare teach? Who are your students?

Ravi Parikh: We teach people to code at all levels … part-time and immersive. There’s a lot … Next Page »

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