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Launch Code, the local volunteer effort spearheaded by Jim McKelvey and several other St. Louis entrepreneurs, pairs beginning computer programmers with professional on-the-job programmers for “pair programming,” where there are two programmers, two keyboards and one monitor, a setup that accelerates students’ learning time. It was a bold initiative which quickly revealed that potential students were lacking the necessary skills. The solution? Offer free classes to bring the students up to speed.
Launch Code teamed up with Harvard University and MIT, offering the free CS50x, “Introduction to Computer Science,” class online, while beginning in-person classes at the St. Louis Public Library last January. The class was an unqualified success. Of the 54 new programmers who were paired with professional programmers since Launch Code began last August, 26 graduated into salaried positions, 27 got full-time jobs at an hourly wage, and only one was let go. The success garnered Launch Code an Innovation Award in education by the St. Louis Business Journal.
It was the astounding success of Launch Code that is bringing Harvard professors to St. Louis for the first-ever St. Louis CS50 Hackathon with Launch Code students. Organizers say the visit is further evidence that the nation is taking notice of what is happening in the St. Louis startup community.
The Launch Code students will begin their final projects alongside the 12 Harvard staff members of the CS50 program, Harvard University’s introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming. As of Fall 2013, CS50 boasted almost 700 students on campus, Harvard’s second-largest course. The online version of the class, via edX, has over 210,000 internet students.
The Hackathon starts at 6pm on March 28 and lasts until 2am on March 29, during which students will work in small teams building software.