New Brunswick

Saint John coding workshop designed to reduce intimidation factor

Saint John’s National Learn to Code Day event takes place this Saturday.

Saturday event targets women but is open to everyone

Participants at a past session of the annual Ladies Learning Code workshop at ConnexionWorks. (Andrew Finlay)

If you know zilch about computer programming but want a free, problem-solving adventure over the weekend, Saint John's National Learn to Code Day event takes place Saturday

At the beginner-friendly workshop hosted by ConnexionWorks, learners get a primer in the programming languages HTML and CSS for interactive storytelling and game-making.

"It's all about showing people that learning code can be fun," said ConnexionWorks director Allison Thorne. "The term coding can be scary to people. We're looking to take away the barriers to entry."

Workshop geared toward women

Allison Thorne (left) is the director of the co-working space ConnexionWorks, which is hosting Saturday's event. Lindsay Brin (right) is a mentor and post-doctoral researcher at UNBSJ (Julia Wright / CBC)
The workshop, while open to everyone, is especially geared toward women.

"The reasons that girls don't get into coding [relate to] he environment itself, and whether you see people who are like yourself doing coding," said workshop mentor Lindsay Brin.

"The idea here is that if you create an environment that encourages them to participate," said Brin, who is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.

Brin said programming languages have important real-world applications.

"If you know how to do HTML and CSS you can make yourself a web site which can be useful if you end up with your own business."

In addition, learning a new skill and "coding something that is more accessible, and reachable, is magical and empowering," she said.

Managing data

Participants can sign up on Eventbrite to learn two different coding languages, HTML and CSS to make a basic website and interactive game. The workshop runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Saint John.
Brin became interested in coding through her career in biology. She grew tired, she said, "of trying to figure out how to move numbers around in Excel spreadsheets, losing track of what I was doing, making mistakes, and not being able to reproduce results."

In learning coding as a means to manage data, she then found "it was something I loved doing as much as the science itself."

"It's a big problem-solving adventure," said Brin. "Even something as simple as just figuring out what line of code is, what the syntax is, the vocabulary. How do you put the words together in a sentence so that they make sense?

"Figuring that out can be an exciting challenge, especially when you can get it to work. You see the results, and you've solved the problem."

The workshop was designed for "absolute beginners," said Thorne. "If you know absolutely nothing about coding, or computer programming, you will be in the right place."

Men are also permitted to participate and are encouraged to bring a female learner along with them

"It's fun and interactive, said Brin. "While you're working, there will be people coming around and giving you a hand if you get stuck."

Participants can sign up on Eventbrite to learn two different coding languages, HTML and CSS to make a basic web site and interactive game. The workshop runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Saint John.

with files from Information Morning Saint John