‘Code year’ is upon us!

2012 is already heavily associated with the London Olympics, but for greater relevance to many developing engineers, it is also ‘Code Year’.

Code Year (#Codeyear) is a New Year’s resolution that challenges people to learn enough code to write their own apps by the end of the year. The initiative, launched by NY based Code Academy (nominated for ‘Best New Startup’), has attracted over 350,000 people to sign up to the weekly online, interactive lessons. One of the highest profile sign-ups was Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of NYC, which prompted our own, beloved Boris to express interest in taking the course if re-elected.

So, why is #Codeyear, and coding in general, of relevance to developing engineers?

Coding is the basis of so many things that engineers use daily, ranging from this website, to your CAE package of choice, to the point where it has been named ‘The New Latin’. It allows us to automate repetitive processes, perform millions of calculations in seconds, and simulate complex systems. I personally use coding (VBA & MATLAB mainly) on a near daily basis, developing tools for myself and my colleagues. One of my personal bugbears is doing the simple things stupidly, and coding has allowed me to remove countless manual steps, producing a more efficient and consistent end product.

#Codeyear has come at, as far as I am concerned, a pivotal time for ICT education in this country. Google’s’ CEO, Eric Schmidt, has publicly criticised education in the UK, saying it is holding back the UK’s potential in the new digital economy. Our ICT education in schools focuses on use of software packages, but we should be promoting increased focus on computer sciences. This is a view shared by education secretary, Michael Gove, who describes the current curriculum as “demotivating and dull”.

The effects of this education deficit are all too prevalent in many engineering offices. I have seen countless developing engineers, at all stages in their careers, performing laborious, error prone & repetitive tasks that could be automated by a dozen lines of code, or simply being left aghast by MATLABs red text. I would never expect all engineers to be capable of writing next years Call of Duty rival, but I do feel that we could all do with a better appreciation of coding.

And what better why of getting started that signing up to #Codeyear for 2012?

Peter Bonnington

I am one of the current vice chairs of the Young Members Board at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). I’m my role, I also sit on Council & the Education Advisory Group.

I lead a research based team for Delphi Diesel Systems, developing diesel common rail fuel systems for the heavy duty market. I am studying my Engineering Doctorate in Systems Engineering & Management at the Universities of Bristol & Bath.

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Comments

  1. Dave Hayden says:

    Education is the main problem, nobody in the UK knows the difference between Computer Science and ICT. I was lucky enough to go to a Secondary School that offers Computer Science A-Level and even the new GCSE. I think there are less than 10 schools in the country that offer this course!

    If approached in the right way programming doesn’t have to be geeky or boring, and especially if you’re taught basic key Computer Science principles properly learning a new programming language becomes almost trivial.

    I took an extremely basic knowledge of PHP, MySQL and Javascript but combined it with what I’d learnt in my A-Level Computer Science classes and the end result was this website: http://www.gopeg.co.uk an interactive, database based website that uses the Google maps API to track clothes pegs around the world.

  2. Kayleigh says:

    This whole project sounds brilliant, I use Matlab in a very slow trial and error way as my coding is very simplistic. In fact the most I ever learnt before using Matlab at work was very basic html to make my ebay listings look a bit better!!

    As I am a bit late coming to this, will it be easy to catch up? And how much time commitment is required…I don’t really need another thing to do but can see this would benefit me hugely!

  3. Kayleigh says:

    @Dave Hayden Dave your peg website is a fun idea, I love it! Not sure I have enough guts to peg someone, what if they think you’re about to pickpocket them!

  4. Peter Bonnington says:

    @Kayleigh It is definitely a worthwhile project, and doesn’t take too much time. Generally, there is a new lesson and project (exercise) or two every week alongside the occasional challenge; I’d budget for 30-60minutes a week. You could probably catch up in an afternoon, especially if you are familiar with basics & conditionals (If, while, & for loops etc.). Enjoy! It will definitely be useful

    @Dave Hayden A-Level computer sciences sounds great! I wish it was available at my sixth form!

  5. Rob Thornton says:

    @Peter Bonnington as one of the many millions of people out there who didn’t have the opportunity (and then didn’t pursue it themselves), this is definitely something I’m going to have a bash at. Thanks for this Peter.

  6. [...] s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })();Following on to my last piece on why Codeyear is important for developing engineers, I thought I’d share with you some more [...]