Iron Yard Coders Impress at Demo Day - 1

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A recap video of the first Iron Yard Academy class last year. Credit: Ryan Timms

Iron Yard Coders Impress at Demo Day - 1
Wade Minter snapped photos of designs on the big screen at the Iron Yard Academy powered by Smashing Boxes' first Demo Day and graduation in Durham Friday night. He sent them along to the head designer at Boulder-based startup TeamSnap, where he serves as chief technology officer.

The response back? "Hire them all."

Twelve weeks might sound like a snippet of time to become proficient at a skill as seemingly difficult as computer programming, but a group of 20 developers completed the inaugural program in Durham with laundry lists of languages and technologies learned and implemented while developing 10 projects, most of which are commercially-viable. Some may even become the Triangle's next generation of startup businesses.

But that isn't the goal of the Iron Yard. The ultimate goal is to find software development jobs for as many of the students as want them, filling a dire need within startups and other businesses throughout the Triangle. Responses like Minter's (he leads an office in the Triangle) are welcomed as the Iron Yard kicks off round two of Ruby on Rails and Front End Development classes this fall, and expands in 2015 to include a class on Python.

"There is some serious talent in there," Minter said following the students' pitches. "I was impressed by how much application design came out of it in just three weeks (of project time during the program)."

Iron Yard Coders Impress at Demo Day - 2
Two of 18 students available for hire already had job offers before they presented their final projects. Validic hired a member of a team that used its API to build a mobile app for tracking and rating healthy behaviors. And Smashing Boxes, Iron Yard Durham co-founder and owner, hired the second.

Validic CTO Drew Schiller, pictured right speaking with students, was most impressed by the students' commitment to the program.

"You can't accomplish what they accomplished without working nights and weekends. That shows dedication that any employer would recognize," he said.

Demo Day felt a lot like the pitch night of the Startup Factory or another accelerator. Only instead of discussing the role investment might play in the company's growth, each student shared the programming languages and technologies they learned in order to complete their project. And instead of presenting before a room of investors, they demoed to about two dozen potential employers.

Iron Yard Coders Impress at Demo Day - 3
The students were taught to perform work for clients and to solve problems, so every project included market research and testing before they got to work. There was a feedback loop throughout development of the project too. Because they were developed much like a new company would, most projects are pretty compelling from a business perspective.

Seven have working websites or applications live online. One student used his project time to develop a graphic timeline and story about his decades as an ad designer. Another team took on the challenge of redesigning Girl Develop It's website. Though the New York-based code education organization hasn't yet implemented the site, that was the project that impressed Minter's team.

Most students will continue work on their projects even after they secure full-time work. Those with the most startup potential are:

Pladel uses Validic's API to sync wearable devices and movement apps into one simple app that lets you easily input meals (and get recipes from Yummly) and scores healthy behavior based on your preset movement, diet and sleep goals. lets you create photo galleries, share information or reminisce about your pet. It's not envisioned as a social network for pets, but a resource for families and for veterinarians. (team pictured at top of page) helps event and festival organizers manage every detail, from applications to present or perform to mobile check-in for attendees. It will be tested at Chatham County's Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in October. Many members of the Iron Yard classes plan to be involved in its continued development.

Iron Yard Coders Impress at Demo Day - 4
Reciperocity is a response to creator Erin Brown's (pictured right) love of cooking and potlucks. It has a two-fold mission, to help people more easily and seamlessly organize potluck events and to find, store and share recipes.

Inter-I isn't live, but it's worth mentioning because it's so dang cool. Its founder Josh Tarkington exported 40 gigabytes of Wikipedia data (that's about 40 percent of the entire site!) and created a way to search an idea and pull up topics that relate. The site will eventually help people find things based on context.

Minter's response to that project?

"Black magic."

Photo credit: Smashing Boxes