When MEDA’s Technology Manager Richard Abisla mingled at a Facebook-sponsored Happy Hour in the Mission, he met Kurtis Nusbaum of the tech giant’s Messenger Team. Their discussion about the Mission Techies—financially challenged youths aged 17-24 who learn free IT skills at MEDA—led to Kurtis volunteering to teach code to the fortunate group last night from 7-9pm. To aid in teaching the class, Kurtis enlisted the assistance of friend RJ Marsan, an Android programmer at Google. The two met while both attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where they were members of the computer club and built random projects while engrossed in 24-hour hackathons.
Also on hand was Mission Techies instructor Francisco Martinez, plus Jacinto Noriega from Cesar Chavez Elementary, one of the four Mission Promise Neighborhood schools. Jacinto wanted to gain some insight on how to start a coding class at the elementary school level.
Kurtis explained to the group his longtime love of coding: “I get to directly influence products I use myself. It’s great to be able to want to see something and then actually make it with a team. I’ve always loved to code. The first thing I made was an app to tell when the bus was coming between the two campuses at my college, back when I was an undergrad. About 300 students downloaded this free app from Android. I was hooked.”
RJ told the Mission Techies how he was always sneaking onto computer devices, hiding from his mother. The entertainment game, Halo, was an initial draw.
The duo started the class by having the Techies log on to code.org. They first watched a video showcasing tech luminaries discussing how they learned to code. Next was the start of a coding project, with Kurtis and RJ offering one-on-one assistance.
MEDA Technology Training Coordinator Leo Sosa was excited for his students to get this personalized instruction from “the source.” Sosa stated, “It’s great to see young people get interested about this career path.”
Over the next couple of hours, the Mission Techies gained much knowledge, as they learned the basics of coding and had their appetites whetted to learn all the more. Plans for another round of coding are in the offing.
Summed up Kurtis, “If you want to learn to code, all of the tools are out there for you.”