A 10-Week Ruby on Rails Bootcamp is Coming to the Innovation District

RubyA 10-Week Ruby on Rails Bootcamp is Coming to the Innovation District

Describe the process of buying a piece of IKEA furniture.

That was one of the questions applicants were asked by Launch Academy, a new Boston-based developer bootcamp kicking off this year. Founded by Evan Charles, formerly of Bain Capital, and Boston Ruby Group co-organizer Dan Pickett, Launch Academy is a 10 week, full-time Ruby on Rails bootcamp aiming to turn novices into entry level developers ready to be placed at Boston startups. (More on the founding storyhere.) And thanks to a partnership with a major local incubator, it’ll be opening its doors in Boston, not Cambridge.

But, back to IKEA.

Charles and Pickett asked their applicants the IKEA question in order to hear them take a familiar task and break it down into a series of logical steps. Did they determine the specifications of the furniture before they went to the store? Did they locate the model number online? Almost no one, they told me, bothered to articulate the final step of actually setting up the furniture.

Based on this, and a number of more orthodox questions, the two selected a class of initial students who will begin the 10-week program on May 1. And while the duo is well-aware of the various developer training models available both online and off, they’ve researched the landscape and hope to improve on existing programs in a couple of ways:

  1. Like similar bootcamps, they’re actively in bringing companies in to meet the class and will have a “hiring day” at the end of the 10 weeks. But unlike some other programs, they’ll offer a six month “support” phase to their students, during which they can come to Launch Academy TA’s for further instruction and career advice.
  2. The curriculum at Launch Academy will build toward the creation of what the founders call a “breakable toy,” a project of the students’ choice to show hiring companies upon completion.

With the first cohort of 30 selected and kicking off soon, Launch Academy has officially opened applications for its second class. The backgrounds of the first class are fairly diverse, from IT and cleantech to the Peace Corps. One student is currently a server at a sushi bar. And while the median age is 24, it ranges quite a bit, from those just out of school up to some in their early 40s.

The founders also shared another bit of news: they’ve secured space in Greentown Labs, the cleantech incubator space in the Innovation District, where they’ll occupy one floor. That puts Launch Academy in one of Greater Boston’s more central startup locations, and opens the possibility of collaboration between the bootcamp and Greentown. (The founders mentioned the potential for a cleanweb coder bootcamp in the future.)

“We are thrilled to welcome Launch Academy to Greentown Labs,” Executive Director Emily Reichert told me by email. “We see unique potential in this partnership to expose the very best developer talent in Boston to opportunities to apply their skills to our toughest resource challenges.”

Of course, Launch Academy is hardly the only developer training experiment underway in Boston. In addition to classes at General Assembly and Intelligent.ly, The Startup Institute (formerly Boston Startup School) is doing its own part-time course called RampUp, which I’m currently sitting in on. Taken together, these efforts promise to both develop and retain Boston’s talent pool, and to substantially benefit the tech ecosystem.

Can Launch Academy really turn amateurs into employable junior developers in just 10 weeks? Can RampUp do the same on a part-time basis? Are self-motivated learners really better off paying for either rather than using free online materials? I’d love to hear folks’ thoughts on all of these questions, as I’ll be writing more about it soon. If you have something to say, email me at walter@bostinno.

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