Code Play: Kids Learn App-Building, Game-Design Skills at CodeDay

by Samantha Zee

With almost 4 million apps available for download, a few more may soon hit the pile after a group of teens attended CodeDay at our Santa Clara campus one recent weekend.

NVIDIA mentors advise students at CodeDay
NVIDIA mentors advise students at CodeDay.

About 130 students, armed with their own PCs and sleeping bags, came for a 24-hour app- and game-building frenzy. The event was sponsored by StudentRND, a nonprofit that gets students from middle school through college excited about tech.

CodeDay helps students learn to work in teams to build an app or game, and gives them an early taste of an all-nighter. Students from across the Bay Area, many possessing basic programming experience, arrived for a noon kickoff.

Kids from at least five NVIDIA families joined the fun. And about 17 NVIDIANs volunteered as programming advisors and mentors.

There were hands-on tutorials with examples of how to tackle problems as they arose. Instructors also offered workshops on game design, web development and Git, an open-source version control system.

The learning curve was steep as boys and girls from across the Bay Area collaborated with other students, some of whom they just met.

Students collaborate at CodeDay
Students collaborate at CodeDay.

Unlike a hackathon, rules for CodeDay are relaxed, with projects allowed in any programming framework or language.

Students created many surprising apps.

One team worked on a way to summarize text after taking a picture of information. Another created a way to choose movies based on previously liked films. Other students worked on a way to control a computer from any device.

There was some down time, too. Fueled by more than 90 pizzas, and with donuts as a midnight snack, students competed in a “Super Smash Bros.” tournament from 1:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. and then played “Super Mario” until 4 a.m.

Judges assessed presentations the following day. The goal wasn’t about prizes. Learning new skills as part of a team was the event’s real focus.