Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Thinking bigger: a free engineering school (thecodepath.com)
43 points by timothy1ee 1543 days ago | hide | past | web | 22 comments | favorite

This is really cool. A lot of his analysis on the learning process (and what separates a good one from an unhelpful one) are spot-on. These are pretty much the same reasons why I'm doing Hack Reactor (Learning the right way with useful things to show for it in a very selective environment). In fact I'd say this program pretty closely mirrors what Hack Reactor (and some of the other top-tier bootcamps) are trying to do. The main difference of course being that this one would be free, and that it's for experienced developers, as opposed to new developers. But the principle is pretty much the same.

Looks like a great idea!

Only question I have is how they plan to attract the best simply by offering the highest quality classes. Does highest quality mean most difficult, or will they have some sort of standard for admission? For instance, admission at Hack Reactor is pretty selective (under 3%). I'd be interested to see what their specific plan is to prevent developers who may not be the best or who may turn out to have limited commitment from claiming some of what I assume are limited spots in the class.

We are big fans of Hack Reactor and similar programs. I think they fill a real need for aspiring engineers who want to jump into the field.

The key differences for us are we are very focused on existing experienced engineers that want to learn new technologies in a hands-on accelerated way amongst peers. We offer our courses in the evenings around a job schedule and the courses are free of charge. Our business depends on helping those interested find jobs they love. See http://pandodaily.com/2013/08/26/job-recruiting-in-silicon-v... for more information.

"Highest quality" is a complicated thing to define but suffice to say it is in part about creating ultra high quality. We provide detailed videos, extensive wikis, hands-on projects, open-source and closed-source libraries, and extensive mentorship. We also have a process for selection of our candidates that involves a phone screen and a short in-person interview to assess background and commitment to the program.

Ok, so this blog post is spot on. Very insightful.

The problem is the punchline. iOS and Android programming is low on the list of topics that I see as really extending your abilities as a software engineer and thinker, are not deeply challenging, nor do they require close mentorship to learn. Mobile application design, yes, but mobile application implementation, not so much. (Yes I realize these are sometimes inseparable, but this does not seem to be a design-focused offering.) The shelf life for mobile APIs and design patterns is really measured in months, and StackOverflow actually fits the bill nicely for most of it since you have to throw out most of what you know every 6-12 months.

If you're really "thinking bigger", why not offer a class that focuses on applications of cutting edge but fundamental computer science research, topics informed by the current trend of mobile applications? Or research in other domains altogether (robotics, materials, mecheng, etc) as applied to software? Build something with a mobile component, sure, but that is an implementation detail and anyone who has "plateau"'ed and is looking to climb the next hill is going to be bored by a class focused exclusively on the sausage making part of writing mobile apps. People like that have already seen 5 or 6 generations of platform-hopping, can pick up the basics in a weekend, and instead want to learn how to think about things differently and learn things they can use for the rest of their careers regardless of the latest platform or API. In other words, focused education should provide massive, long term leverage, not a short term boost to the resume. There is no shortage of topics out there right now that fit the bill. Just browse Coursera to see for yourself.

Learning how to hack together an iOS app to market yourself to the "most competitive mobile startups" seems completely at odds with the mission of CodePath outlined in this post. This type of topic surely belongs in there in the long run for practical reasons, but having it as the "launch offering" is weird.

I like your style and your sentiment here. We are committed to exactly the ideals you outlined here. Tim and I are both startup founders and very product-minded engineers. Our program is less about "whipping together a cheesy iPhone app" and more about helping people learn design, product development, et al. Every engineer is put onto a team which involves planning, designing and building a product idea of their choice with plenty of mentorship along the way. We have big plans to expand curriculum in all sorts of directions. Mobile happens to be in demand and highly sought after in the valley but this is bigger than iOS training.

Thanks for the reply! I'm sure you guys will learn a ton with these initial pilot offerings. Sans the API hackery part your students will certainly learn a lot of timeless skills about practical product development and design, which is great.

There is always going to be a lot of pressure to teach surface-level skills that are in high demand due to companies who want more warm bodies to hack stuff out. Not even top universities are immune to this, just look at the spread of Java throughout top computer science schools and the proliferation of classes on OOP that are now largely irrelevant just a few years later.

I think what you are doing is great. Don't lose sight of the big picture :)

We would love to cover additional topics. I did my master's degree in robotics and worked in that field for a number of years. The reason that we're starting with iOS and Android is that the job market is the strongest in those areas, so it's easy to start there to prove that we can fund a tuition-free school via industry. Long term, we would love to expand to areas outside of engineering as well.

Which areas do you think benefit most from close mentorship?

Unrelated to the OP, but I thought "Oh like Olin College." It was an engineering college founded in 1997 that had free tuition until recently. (It still is half price.) It attracts the best and brightest. Great school.

This is actually related to the OP. They were concerned that being free might signal the wrong things to top talent.

Interesting, we'll definitely check them out!

Think of a place like Tiger's Nest Monastery[1] or some remote place on a hill in India/China/Vietnam/Cambodia.

A monastery like environment, complete with places like dojos where there would be practice and sparring sessions, prayer and contemplation halls where the young and old from various schools of thoughts (Mac/*nix/MS, anything) mingle and discuss their ideas. A place where rank/wealth/ethnicity/gender doesn't matter; and where judgements would be of the work and not of people. A truly jedi-esque order of programmers, helping younger and able programmers realise their true potentials. The place would have volunteers who teach for free and those who truly want to learn. The Internet bandwidth, though limited, would be used judiciously. The gates of the monastery would be open for all those who wish to learn. And not just for programmers. The place would be open for the curious from any background.

Wouldn't such a thing be wonderful!


Sound too good to be true, they could charge half the 'normal' price or something, what is going on here? has communism arrived in CA already after so many years' socialism there ? :)

I'm guessing they plan to charge referral fees for their graduates. Even so, this sounds unsustainable.

This article might help clarify: http://pandodaily.com/2013/08/26/job-recruiting-in-silicon-v... we see this as an opportunity to fix talent development and placement in a big way. Put it this way: consider the difference between an "engineering referral" from two experienced engineers who have spent weeks with each carefully selected candidate versus other models today. We have spent quite a bit of time exploring the sustainability of this. All I ask is you reserve judgement, we have a lot of ideas of how we can make this work.

I applied for the iOS dev course a few weeks back and never heard from you guys. When should I expect to know if I'm in or not?

"It’s a good thing that engineers enjoy self-teaching because it’s the only option available currently."

LOL because he says so. I used to participate in the IEEE video conference series in the 90s and they were pretty awesome. And reasonably well attended, although expensive.

As for the lack of mentors the original problem of fire all the old expensive engineers and only hire cheap inexperienced ones means the theoretical mentors will have plenty of time for their mentoring duty; they'll be unemployed. Or the purpose of this is to get them jobs; in which case they'll be mentoring the kids at work instead of at the hackerspace?

A huge part of engineering unfortunately involves some expensive gear. As ham radio guys have known for decades, stuff thats a generation or two old does exactly the same job as cutting edge for about 1/1000th the cost. My POS oscilloscope at home is about two generations out of date, luckily I don't have the skill or other gear to do cutting edge work from the 90s so I'm all good. Thats just EE which is fairly easy to do at home... don't get me started on my previous career plan of ChemEng. Anyway a decent hackerspace Can help, although in my chosen fields of electronics and machining I generally have better gear at home than any hackerspace has (hey, they pay us well in tech, non-computer hardware doesn't depreciate as fast as computer video cards, and I'm not a kid anymore so spend a grand a year on gear and none of it goes obsolete and by the time you're "old" you have quite a basement indeed)

One oddity is the only two engineering classes they mention by name are Android and IOS and those are typically code monkey topics, not say, MechEng or CivEng. I would think theoretical MechEng would be pretty cheap to teach as would CivEng.

Just as the scientists and tinkerers of yester-year once appropriated the term Engineer from the well respected steam engine operators, today's programmers have grabbed the still respectable term and ran off with it.

>scientists and tinkerers of yester-year once appropriated the term Engineer from the well respected steam engine operators,

engineer (n.) early 14c., "constructor of military engines," from Old French engigneor, from Late Latin ingeniare (see engine); general sense of "inventor, designer" is recorded from early 15c.; civil sense, in reference to public works, is recorded from c.1600. Meaning "locomotive driver" is first attested 1832, American English. A "maker of engines" in ancient Greece was a mekhanopoios. [1]

It looks like the steam engine operator meaning of the word didn't show up until the 19th century.

[1] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=engineer


The company is called "Code Path". I'm pretty sure by "engineers" the post means "software engineers".

That's right, Tim and I (CodePath founders) are both startup-minded software engineers with backgrounds in product development and web and mobile development stacks.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact