This past April, our team traveled to Austin, TX for RailsConf to spend a week learning and meeting other folks in the Rails community. Our community is full of talented, outspoken developers, one of whom posed a great question at the Ruby Rogues Live keynote: “When are women going to make up 50 percent of the programming community?” This inquisitor was Sarah Mei, one of the founders of the San Francisco based organization, RailsBridge, which runs free Ruby on Rails workshops for women and their friends. I’m really passionate about empowering women in tech and growing the Orlando tech community, so I quickly began looking into how Envy Labs and Code School could run a RailsBridge workshop here in Orlando.
A few weeks later, I connected with another Ruby on Rails developer in Orlando who was in the early planning stages of hosting a similar workshop. Rather than run two separate events, we decided to join forces and create a doubly awesome event!
We decided to participate with RailsBridge because they take a lot of the guesswork out of planning a workshop. Their website provides pre-planned curriculum materials outlining what to teach, as well as guidelines on how to teach it. They also provide a great online walkthrough to help students set up a Ruby on Rails environment on their computers. Since we already had a number of educational tools at our disposal via Code School, we decided to incorporate some of those resources as well.
A RailsBridge event is essentially broken down into two parts—a Friday night “Installfest,” where attendees will complete the environment setup, and a Saturday workshop, where attendees will build a basic Ruby on Rails application. To incorporate our Code School tools, we split into small groups on Saturday morning to have discussion and activity sessions based around Try Ruby and Try Git. After lunch, we moved onto the main workshop, in which the advanced group worked independently and the beginner/intermediate groups worked with guidance from teaching assistants.
Beyond curriculum planning, we wanted to make the event as accessible as possible for our attendees. Heroku and Code School sponsored food and drinks for the duration of the event, one of my coworkers headed up an on-site playgroup for attendees who brought kids, and though we weren’t able to offer free parking, we made sure to email everyone with a map of the available lots.
The response from our 36 students was overwhelmingly positive! Many were grateful to have assistance setting up Rails and the opportunity to learn about programming in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Overall, the event was a success, and I look forward to leading not only more RailsBridge events, but more introductory events for all audiences.
If you are interested in leading a RailsBridge event in your community, check out the RailsBridge organizer’s resources for more information.
Special thanks to our volunteers, Eric Allam, Keegan Barry, Jennifer Borders, Violette Calhoun, Jon Friskics, Olivier Lacan, Thomas Meeks, Gregg Pollack, Adam Rensel, Sarah Sheehan, Jacob Swanner, Caike Souza, Josh Van Cleef, and Tony Winn for making this event possible!
- Aimee Booth Simone