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How Deep Dive’s Coding Bootcamps Leverage Group Capstone Projects to Prepare Students for Great Jobs

One of the major parts of each Deep Dive bootcamp is group capstone projects.  These projects play a central role in meeting Deep Dive’s goal to teach students all they need to know to land a job in a tech field when they graduate.

As an alumni of the Fullstack Web Development Bootcamp and as an instructor for Deep Dive’s Data Science Bootcamp, I’ve experienced first hand how powerful the process of creating capstone projects is.  

First let’s talk about what the team capstone projects are and then we’ll go over how they help Deep Divers to be prepared for (and be hired into) tech jobs.

What are capstone projects?

Students work in teams of two to four people to create full projects.  They are responsible for all aspects of the projects from coming up with ideas to completion.  

The exact guidelines for the capstones depend on which bootcamp a student is enrolled in.  For example, Fullstack students create complete web apps, IoT students create IoT devices and Data Science students find real-world data sets, create models and present on usable insights that could drive business decisions.

While the final results vary, all of our bootcamps ensure that our students are capable of every step needed to work with a team to create a complete project in their field.  (Students also create individual projects to demonstrate that they are capable of working on their own.)

Fullstack example

As an example of a capstone project I’ll talk about my own project from the Fullstack Coding Bootcamp.  We called our project The Albuquerque Property-Crime Incident Map or APCIMap.  

Our project used two data sets – property data from the Bernalillo County Assessor’s Office and Crime Incident Reports from the Albuquerque Police Department.  We created a map with color coded properties based on assessed values and locations for incident reports.  One application would be to help users to find areas with both lower cost housing and lower crime incidents. 

We were responsible for the entire project process including coming up with the idea, thinking about ideal users, considering the business case, creating wireframes and then coding and deploying the whole thing.  

Our tech stack included PHP, mySQL, Javascript, CSS, HTML, React and the Mapbox API.  We used Docker for containerized deployment.  In order to coordinate our project we used Slack, Asana and git.  

You can view this project at APCIMap.com.  Keep in mind that this was the product of only 10 weeks – mixed in with lots of learning, individual projects and homework assignments. 

Hands-on learning of the entire tech stack

Working on a project helps to cement what students are learning.  It goes beyond just a lecture and puts everything into context.  Students are able to demonstrate that they have learned all elements of the process to create a full, working project.  They learn all the individual pieces and put them together to create the big picture.

It’s easy to follow along with a coding tutorial online.  It’s a lot harder to create your own unique project, but you learn so much more and get practice figuring out what to do when things aren’t working.  (The bootcamp environment is great for this process because the instructors provide the resources and support to help students when they are really stuck.)

Teamwork and the technologies to make it work

The teamwork aspect is a huge one when it comes to helping our students prove that not only are they technically competent, they have the skills to collaborate in a professional environment.  

This was one of the things that drew me to Deep Dive as a fullstack student.  I already had a lot of technical experience and had taken some online programming classes.  None of those online classes made me feel like I had any idea how to land a new programming job. They also didn’t help me feel prepared for what would be expected of me on a new team.  

For example, I knew how to use git for version control on my personal projects. I just couldn’t practice using it to collaborate with others while learning on my own.  When I graduated from the bootcamp, I knew exactly what was involved with coding on a team.  This leads into the next point- project management principles. 

Project management principles

Deep Dive bootcamps incorporate a lot of project management principles.  We use Asana for tracking everything that needs done on the capstone projects and who is doing it.  We utilize stand-up meetings and sprints.  

This means that our students don’t just learn to code.  They’re ready to hit the ground running working for a real tech company.  

Employer demos and portfolios

The last day of the bootcamp is demo day.  This is when students present their projects to an audience from local tech companies and government agencies. 

Knowing that they will get to show their projects to potential employers keeps students incredibly motivated while they are working on them.  No matter how many demo days I see, I am always blown away by what our students accomplish.  

Demo day gives students a chance to practice sharing technical accomplishments and the Q&A session gives them experience answering technical questions which is good preparation for interviews.  In addition companies are able to see what our students are capable of and have accomplished.  This keeps Deep Dive on their mind when it’s time to hire new talent. 

A final advantage of capstone projects is that students leave the bootcamp with a portfolio project.  Instead of just having a list of skills, they can show what they are capable of creating in just 10 or 12 weeks.  

“I’d rather hire a Deep Diver”

I heard a local CEO say that he preferred to hire Deep Divers over people with degrees in Computer Science because the Deep Divers already knew how to work on a team and the CS grads just knew a bunch of programming theory.  This is the power of our capstone projects.  

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