ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah CodeCamp celebrated its 10th competition as one of the first events to enjoy the newly renovated Atwood Innovation Plaza at Dixie State University.
CodeCamp is a nonprofit organization originally started in 2009 by industry professionals. These professionals were looking to find talent and immediately hire capable employees or create a backlog of individuals that could be hired in the future in an area where a technologically skilled workforce was hard to find.
Residents from all over Washington County met at the Atwood Innovation Plaza to compete in teams of four against other programmers, designers and entrepreneurs in a 24-hour event. Beginning Nov. 8 at 8 a.m., competitors in four divisions — rookie, novice, intermediate and industry — worked to create a project in one of three categories — apps, games and makers.
Rookie teams were comprised of elementary and middle school students who were completely new to computer science while novice team participants have some experience in coding and design or might be looking to learn new skills and techniques.
Intermediate teams were mostly made up of college students with some experience in the industry but who would not be considered full-time professionals. If any one of the participants on the team was a full-time software professional, the entire team was entered into the industry division.
This was the camp’s first year offering the industry cup, a branch of the competition geared toward allowing professionals to compete against each other.
Beginning last year, the competition also included a rookie day camp, where younger students did not have to compete in the 24-hour competition, and instead were only asked to stay for about eight hours.
This year’s camp had 355 participants registered — from fourth-grade students to professionals in the industry — and about 280 checked in the final day. Although this group was a bit smaller than in last year’s competition, board member Joshua Aikens said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Over the years, the Southern Utah CodeCamp competition has become the capstone event for a slew of more specific competitions throughout the year. This, coupled with the cap officials put on the number of participants, caused the dip in competitors.
This program of events is meant to “fill the pipeline,” which previous chair and current board member Diana Phillips said includes creating resources that help educate and offer career opportunities to interested parties.
“There’s a shortage of technical resources in the area,” she said. “This is helping to guide people and get them interested in technology.”
A group of participants, four computer science majors at Dixie State University, took home the bronze medal in their division but placed first in their category for an application called SABER, short for Speech Activated Background Executable Runner. Jack Saller, one of the team members behind the software, likened SABER to “Siri for programmers.”
The group — including Saller, Damen Maughan, Kacey Stocks and Jessica Cserepes — said the project took them the entire 24 hours, as they worked to ensure the files worked with only 60 seconds left in the competition. The team said they accomplished so much more than they thought they would be able to.
Cserepes said the group came together to compete simply to have fun without any expectations. They believed they were going to learn a lot from the experience, even if they didn’t place.
“I really love the community of it,” Maughan said. “Not only are you working on your own project with this nice group of members, but you’re also in it together with this entire field of people who you can follow along with and hear their successes, their downfalls. It was a really emotional — sometimes delirious, sometimes depressing — time.”
Winners in each division and category will be presenting their project at the monthly Silicon Slopes Luncheon. The event is hosted at Dixie Technical College beginning at noon on Dec. 6.
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