Things Learned from Four Weeks & Four Coding Camps


The last four straight weeks I have spent teaching various development topics to students in different cities throughout south central Tennessee.  It is the second straight year my June has been booked with such.  This year was a bit crazier in that I also welcomed my second daughter into the world on the first week of the camps!  Say hello to Amelia Ruby!

Amelia Ruby!

How little ones effect everything, especially sleep!

Here are a few things I have observed over these weeks or noticed in the surveys we give at the end of each week:

  1. Website development (HTML/CSS is what we covered for a couple days) were easily the set of skills most students wanted to learn and the thing that students enjoyed the most.  Students loved being able to make something that others can go to that they made (show and tell type deal).  A couple of the camps I showed a simple CSS3 animation by using the transform property, and they really dug that as well, but the main thing was hosting a website on Github for anyone to see.  They thought that was the coolest.
  2. Minecraft is still loved by all, even if we are only talking the version on Raspberry Pis.  We have been using Raspberry Pis for most of the camps, and Minecraft has been the thing most students play during breaks.  So we (Josh Hatcher [He has been with me for a couple years now helping with the camps.  Watch for him to do great things!] and I) decided to show some Minecraft modding using Python for the Raspberry Pis.  This was a success.  Students really enjoyed hacking around Minecraft.
  3. Blinking lights did not phase the students.  I think that it is really cool that you can basically learn circuitry using the Pis… the students could’ve cared less.  That kinda blew my mind.  I thought it would be a huge success.  There are some thoughts that maybe we didn’t teach the material well enough, but I kinda thought it wouldn’t have mattered.  We will revisit that topic in another camp.  Possibly next year.
  4. Scratch is still the best introduction to a coding camp for ages 12-18.  We are starting to look at offering camps to younger students, and I think we may start utilizing for this.  There are a ton of resources here that make me think this should be the first/main stop for younger code camps.

Overall, all the camps have been a success.  We have one camp left in a couple weeks, and I am excited for that camp due to all the speakers we will be having that week.


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College Football Playoff Picture – Nov. 29, 2015

I thought we would have a ton of upsets this weekend… that ended up not being the case.  But we did have a key loss this weekend with Notre Dame going down to Stanford.  With Baylor also losing, this creates some interesting scenarios.  First, my top 10:

  1. Clemson
  2. Iowa
  3. Alabama
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Michigan State
  6. Ohio State
  7. Stanford
  8. North Carolina
  9. Florida State
  10. Notre Dame

The conferences championships also have become quarter finals this year.  The Big 10 is one with winner betweeen Michigan State and Iowa.  The Big 12 doesn’t have a championship, but the OK State and Oklahoma was a de facto championship with Oklahoma probably punching their ticket.  The ACC and SEC have interesting championships with one team definitely getting in with a win (Clemson and Alabama), with the other two teams in more precarious situations.  North Carolina could possibly get in there, but they would have to contend with a possible Pac 12 champion if Stanford won.  So my predictions?

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Michigan State
  5. Stanford
  6. Ohio State

Top 4 make in, with Stanford and Ohio State sitting just outside.

I will write up a better break down of the possible scenarios later in the week.  This is it for now.

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College Football Playoff Picture – Nov. 22, 2015

This has been a crazy year for college football.  From multiple games being decided by crazy plays, so a back end loaded schedule for most of the top teams, it has been an exciting year so far.  Interestingly enough, one game that should have been an awesome game ended up being pretty slow and torturous (Ohio State vs. Michigan State) while another game ended up being really exciting and a great watch, and involved two unranked teams (Mississippi State vs Arkansas).  But the implications of this weeks games were felt everywhere.  After a week where the College Football Playoff Committee choose to leave the top four teams the same for a second week (first time in history of CFP), this week is for sure to see some changes.  Here is my top four:

  1. Clemson
  2. Iowa
  3. Alabama
  4. Notre Dame
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Michigan State
  7. Baylor
  8. Ohio State
  9. Florida
  10. Oklahoma State

So definitely shake up here for my top 10.  Things usually work out by the end of the season, and I think for the most part they will here.  However, the one thing that is lining up to happen is comparing 1 loss Notre Dame against 1 loss Oklahoma.  This could get really interesting.  So how do I see the final four lining up now?

  • Clemson
  • Alabama
  • Michigan State
  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma
  • Baylor

I could see Baylor popping back into the discussion for a playoff spot, but the top 5 are the ones we are really looking at here.  Michigan State has always felt like a team of destiny.  Clemson and Alabama seem to be dealing with things like they should (this weekend could be really interesting though with South Carolina and Auburn as opponents).  This feels like it is coming down to Notre Dame against Oklahoma.  There are two reasons why I put ND ahead. First, there loss is better than Oklahoma’s loss (Clemson > Texas).  Second, Nd beat Texas handedly, and Oklahoma lost to Texas, and that really hurts Oklahoma right now.


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College Football Playoff Picture – Nov. 15, 2015

So numbers 6-10 had a rough week this week.  Many of them losing, and possibly killing their chances at a College Football Playoff spot.  There will be some interesting questions answered in Tuesday’s new rankings.

Where does Baylor sit now?  How much confidence does the committee have in Baylor after they lose to Oklahoma, the only team with a winning record they have faced all season?  I think we should watch where they end up in relation to Michigan, the highest ranked 2 loss team.

How far up does Oklahoma move up?  I don’t see them taking over the 4th slot, but could they be the new #5 team, supplanting Iowa?

And who will be the highest ranked Pac-12 team, and where will they end up?

So many questions for the committee to answer for a top 25.  Luckily, I only do a top 10.  Here they are.

  1. Clemson
  2. Ohio State
  3. Oklahoma State
  4. Iowa
  5. Alabama
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Florida
  9. Michigan State
  10. Michigan

Look who moved into the top 10?  Michigan is slowly working their way back into this national title picture.  They are reminiscent of the 2007 LSU team who had 2 losses and worked their way back into contention.  However, some of these 1 loss teams look really good right now (Alabama, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma) and that will make it hard to Michigan to crack top 10.  Ultimately, Notre Dame will throw a wrench into all of this.  Right now the Pac-12 seems to have lost a chance to be in the top 4.  That would leave the other 4 main conferences to offer their champion to play in the playoff, right?  Notre Dame is causing that idea to go away.  And I don’t see Notre Dame going away.   So which conference gets knocked out?

My Projected Playoff Contenders

  1. Clemson
  2. Ohio State
  3. Alabama
  4. Notre Dame
  5. Oklahoma State
  6. Michigan State

I could see Michigan State slipping up to beat Ohio State, but then Ohio State goes off and wins rest of games to get back into playoff.  Right now, I think the SEC Champion has a clear path to the championship.  And the ACC is hinging it hopes to Clemson.  So which teams could play spoiler to this whole plan?

Notre Dame will play its brand of spoiler as the one independent team here.  I could see North Carolina being a tough test for Clemson.  Auburn will play Alabama tough, and hope to ruin their chances.  Michigan seems like the biggest threat to beat Ohio State, but Michigan State has felt like a team of destiny this year.  And Stanford could still beat Notre Dame.  All the top 10 teams still have rough challenges ahead, so it is not over.  This could be a year where maybe a couple of 2 loss teams crack the top 4.  With each week, the College Football Playoff Picture becomes clearer.


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College Football Playoff Picture – Nov. 7, 2015

We knew this weekend would provide drama, and it did.  But the drama came from other places that most of us did not expect (Michigan State, Ole Miss).  Of course with some big teams also went down (LSU, TCU).  So how does that shape up my new top 10?

  1. Clemson
  2. Ohio State
  3. Baylor
  4. Oklahoma State
  5. Iowa
  6. Alabama
  7. Notre Dame
  8. LSU
  9. Stanford
  10. Florida

Couple of things to note here.  I did jump Clemson above Baylor and Ohio State.  This is not only because of the playoff ranking, but mainly because of the great win against Florida State.  That was a huge win.  Next, Baylor drops below Ohio State due to the quarterback issue.  We will see how he shapes up.  Then, OK State throttling TCU was huge.  This might make OK State the favorite in the Big 12.  Oklahoma will have something to say about who will win that conference.  Next, the win by Alabama really makes the SEC an interesting discussion.  Basically, a 1 loss team (possibly two loss team still) will win, and the discussion of will the winner of the SEC still make the playoff.  Here is how I see the playoff lining up now.

  1. Clemson
  2. Ohio State
  3. Oklahoma State
  4. Alabama
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Stanford

I think Clemson looks really strong, and could possibly hold on to the #1 spot the rest of the year.  I could see Ohio State losing another game this year (Michigan State or Michigan), so I am not totally confident in that pick.  Oklahoma State kinda scares me as well, but they seem to be the best total package in the Big 12.  Finally, I give Alabama the edge over Notre Dame because Alabama gets here by winning the SEC.

Next week will probably provide more drama, as more of these ranked teams will play better opponents.  I have a feeling we will have another 2-3 teams in the top 10 lose.  It is definitely an exciting time to be a college football fan.

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College Football Playoff Picture – Impressions from 1st Ranking

I am surprised by the top 4 teams according to the College Football Playoff Committee.  I am surprised not because I don’t believe any of the teams belong, but because I think the Committee did a great job.  I also think that there are cases to be made for many of the teams sitting outside the top 4, but ultimately this first ranking isn’t the most important.  But what did we learn from this ranking?

Strength of Schedule

Baylor is sitting at 6.  They have obliterated pretty much every team they have played.  Why were they not ranking higher?  I think there are various reasons (couple I will cover later), but the SoS is important.  In the top 12 teams, 4 have a SoS above 50 (only 1 in top 4).  Even more telling…

Strength of Record

In the top 4 teams, #1 Clemson is #1 in SoR, #4 Alabama is #2 in SoR, and #2 LSU is #3 in SoR.  This means that playing good teams is more important that just winning cupcake games.  Ohio State’s SoR is #12.  So how to get beat out the other teams for a top 4 spot?

“Eye Test”

Ultimately, I think the committee is doing a great job of utilizing the coaches in the room to break down the teams.  The coaches on the committee are very well respected by all coaches.  I believe that the committee is impressed with Ohio State’s ability to win games with an unresolved QB situation, all the while winning by an average of 23 points.  All the teams in the top 4 have strong arguments as to why they deserve to be above the other teams.

I do see one team that has a legitimate argument to possibly move into 4th above Alabama, and that is Notre Dame.  I think Alabama has more upside and a better chance of maintaining a higher ranking if both win out because Alabama could play for a conference championship (with help), something Notre Dame can not.

Last year, out of the 4 playoff teams, only 1 was in the top 4 of the first ranking.  Who would my guess be for the team that could be the one who stays in top 4?  The winner of the Alabama/LSU game.

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