STEM Labs: A firsthand look at the life of a software developer

Ever since Microsoft DX started hosting hackfests last this year, we’ve seen steady growth in the level of participation. Rarely does a week go by that we don’t have at least one hackfest going on in Redmond or elsewhere. Last week there were three going on, and this week I’m headed to Berlin to join the Internet of Things (IoT) hackfest on Thursday and Friday – let me know if you want in.

What’s been especially gratifying, though, is how the same tools we use to host hackfests for ISVs have also proven to be great for students. This summer, a handful of local students set up camp on the Redmond campus to test their coding skills and get a glimpse of what it’s like to write code for a living.

We worked with a local non-profit called STEM Labs and co-hosted an accelerator. Full disclosure – my daughter is a founder.

The students worked together to design and build a sophisticated cloud-based app that included responsive web and mobile clients running on Android, iOS, and Windows.

It was pretty amazing to watch this team of young developers learn to work together, leverage cloud computing, and in a very short time produce applications that are as good, if not better, than many of the applications created by professional developers.

Just to give you an idea of how well these students did, we’ve shown the app to development managers at some of the top fortune 500 companies and they were blown away by the sophistication and scope of capabilities – offline data, cross-device, access control, leading one manager to remark, “Wow, we spend so much money building our internal applications across mobile platforms and the web – and the apps aren’t as good as what these kids produced.” Pretty cool.

One of the keys to this was that students were able to take advantage of some of the latest advances in app design – Angular and Bootstrap for responsive web layouts, HTML app technologies like the Web App Template, and synchronized cloud data.

If you want to see how these young hotshots put together the app, there are some examples on Github as part of the Angular Cloud Data Connector that shows the basics of the framework.

Plans are already in the works for next summer’s STEM Labs event, but if next summer is too long to wait, consider taking part in one of many Hour of Code events happening December 8- 14 in classrooms around the world.

Also, consider tuning in to Channel 9 at 9 a.m. PDT on December 8 for a live broadcast of an Hour of Code. Whether at home or in the classroom, you can follow along as Sage Franch, a Microsoft Student Partner and Technical Evangelist intern, and Susan Ibach, Technical Evangelist will teach you how to code.