Washington University partners with LaunchCode

Free coding classes to be offered for St. Louis community

University College in Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis are partnering with LaunchCode to offer a free 16-week basic coding class, called CS50x St. Louis, beginning Jan. 19, 2016.

Steve Ehrlich (center), interim dean of University College in Arts & Sciences, was among the university officials at the event celebrating the opening of LaunchCode’s new Mentor Center. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

The partnership was announced Oct. 29 at an event celebrating the opening of LaunchCode’s new Mentor Center, which is a technology education hub for youth and adults in north St. Louis City.

A nonprofit organization founded in St. Louis, LaunchCode identifies talented, driven individuals who lack the traditional credentials for a job in technology, assesses them on their skill, aptitude and drive, and offers mentorship and education programs to prepare them for full-time employment.

LaunchCode’s CS50x St. Louis is an in-person version of Harvard University’s Introduction to Computer Science CS50 class that is offered through edX. The CS50x St. Louis course teaches basic coding skills to individuals in preparation for apprenticeships and, ultimately, employment as coders and developers.

As partner educators for LaunchCode, University College will administer the course and Douglas Shook, a Washington University alumnus and an instructor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, will lead the instruction during the class meetings.

Undergraduate students from the School of Engineering & Applied Science will serve as mentors, lending hands-on support and training during class sessions, which will be held at LaunchCode’s Mentor Center, 4811 Delmar Blvd.

In response to employers’ requests for enhanced soft skills to accompany coding skills, University College is also facilitating soft skills training with colleagues from the School of Engineering and Olin Business School.

Such training will help students develop proficiencies in business writing, interpersonal and group communication, decision making, and career search and development in preparation for apprenticeship and employment opportunities.

“Partnership, in the context of this initiative with LaunchCode, speaks to the important role that University College plays within the university and the greater St. Louis community,” said Steve Ehrlich, interim dean of University College. “The project clearly has a service and an educational dimension that provides opportunity to individuals without financial resources and, in the long run, will make a positive impact in workforce development in the region.

“We’re delighted to partner with the School of Engineering to help create a curriculum and overall learning experience that bridges technical and soft skills.”

“LaunchCode is a great opportunity for our Computer Science students to connect with the community and share their passion for computing,” said Aaron Bobick, PhD, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the James M. McKelvey Professor.

The CS50x St. Louis course consists of weekly online modules with in-person class sessions every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., from Jan. 19-May 12.

Enrollment is limited and interested students must complete a free application. The application includes a brief exam administered and evaluated by LaunchCode. Admitted students need to bring a laptop computer to each class session.

More information can be found at LaunchCode’s website.