Sand and software were the order of the day recently as three JU Computer Science students attended the three-day "Code on the Beach" Microsoft-based programming conference in Atlantic Beach, bringing together more than 200 developers from across the country to discuss app development, web programming and more.
JU’s Wei He, Darrell Smith and Christian Wilde attended the late-August event with funding help from GreenShades Software, owned by 2001 JU alum and Trustee Matt Kane. Kane also organized a gathering of developers with GreenShades development manager Aaron Woodward during the conference.
The first-time event for Jacksonville’s technology community is being heralded as a sign the industry is maturing locally. Topics also included ASP.NET, Windows Azure cloud-based computing, and databases.
“The students had an experience outside the limits of the classroom that was beneficial not only in terms of knowledge, but also networking, the soft skills that are not easily acquired,” said Dr. Xenia Mountrouidou , JU Assistant Professor of Computing Sciences. “I believe we as JU had a great presence in an event that involved multiple professionals from the whole country.”
He, a JU junior, said the conference was extremely beneficial, especially sessions that helped him learn how to form a team, earn profits from apps and turn his coding passion into an actual business.
“I got to listen in on industry leaders' talks, learn new tools and technologies and exchange ideas with developers,” He said. “After this conference, I started to use technologies I picked up to build new applications. I definitely recommend attending this kind of conference."
He has had two paid internships as a JU student, one at Johnson & Johnson/Vistakon and one at Web.com. He is one of three current JU Computer Science students with paid internships at J&J. The others are Crystal Armstrong and Rachael Jenkins.
Mountrouidou said the event is just one way JU Computer Science students are expanding their horizons beyond the classroom. Some students are putting their apps in the Android market , including Wilde and He. One program alum, 2011 graduate Mike Pellittiere, has begun making money from his app.
“We also have multiple students who have had internships that turned to jobs before even graduating. Andrew Duane (Bear Den Designs) and Johnny Foley (Starfield) are a couple,” she said.
Smith, a JU senior, raved about the Code on the Beach conference.
"It was one of the best learning events outside of school that I have ever experienced,” he said. “I like developing databases, and when I went to this event I was really blown away by how much I learned. I learned … how to create a virtual machine inside a database using the cloud. I am very glad the Computing Science Department and GreenShades gave me a chance to attend. I really encourage every computer science major to attend; it will open your eyes up to things that you didn’t even know."
Wilde, a junior, said Code on the Beach helped him learn more about mobile apps and MySQL (database language).
“I gained more knowledge on how MySQL works and how to write more advanced scripts,” he said. “It also provided me with more knowledge and insight about databases. It was cool also to meet with developers from all over the country and learn about their experiences.”