16 August 2013

The Cincinnati Web Tech Study Group: A Learning Experience

Kenny Glenn is a recent graduate of the inagural Cincinnati Web Tech Study Group, creator of Cincy Ipsum, and a talented and swell guy. We really enjoyed participating in the group from our side. A big thanks to Kenny for graciously providing a recap of the experience from his.

A couple months ago I saw via Twitter that there was going to be a study group to learn building web apps with Ruby on Rails with the Cincinnati Web Tech Study Group that would span 8 Saturdays. I am a designer with some general knowledge of development, however, I make my living making websites look nice as opposed to making them function. I had heard a lot of good things about Rails and the community behind it, so this seemed like the right thing to jump into.

The study group followed a Stanford class (CS142). The course went over various lecture videos with projects that follow the material covered in the video. The folks involved with the study group kept things super simple. The tasks consisted of watching the lecture videos, work on the projects, come in to the group and discuss what made sense and what you were stumped on.

First half of the course was really insightful. We covered some HTML & CSS stuff in the first week. The second week we jumped straight into working with Ruby: learning about objects, blocks, arrays, hashes, symbols and that there are helpers for everything. As a class we also worked on getting Ruby up and running so we could work on course problems, for this I think most of used Nitrous.io.

As we moved onto the second half of the course, I experienced a steeper learning curve than during the first half. Around the start of the 6th project I decided that I was asking for help too much and that there were just too many things that were just over my head. But I didn’t give up! I started following the Agile Web Development With Rails per Chris’ suggestion. I continued to go to the study group but started following the agile rails book as apposed to following the course material.

The class created a great working environment that made solving hitches in assignments a constructive learning experience with plenty of people with the knowledge to help you understand the problem and the solution.

During the last week of the study group I wanted to build something on my own. I decided to build a lorem ipsum generator. Building it allowed me to use most of the skills that we had learned in the study group: rails, manipulating views, the MVC concept, seeding, and some javascript as well. During our last class with the help of the TA’s I launched it right there during class with heroku, which was insanely easy. Thus Cincy Ipsum was born.

By the end course I had taken away some knowledge of Ruby, javascript, databases, gems, shared code that I wrote with others, made an app, all while meeting some great people in Cincinnati’s tech community. The study group opened a rabbit hole for me. Learning something new and having fun with it is invaluable. No matter the amount of frustration that comes from a steep learning curve, the reward that you get from it out weighs the grief.

Heads up! This article may make reference to the Gaslight team—that's still us! We go by Launch Scout now, this article was just written before we re-introduced ourselves. Find out more here.

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