Davies grad hopes to turn summer project into code school

One month ago, Davies grad Adam Vareberg’s only knowledge of computer science education came from his freshman Computer Science 50 course at Harvard University. Code schools were never on the biomedical engineering student’s radar; that is, until Greg Tehven asked him to build one.

Vareberg approached Tehven last winter in search of summer internship opportunities, and Tehven saw him as a viable candidate to take on a project idea that he had been tossing around for some time. Now Vareberg is one of five summer interns at Emerging Prairie, and his first internship is far from anything he could have expected. He’s not refilling printers, or going on coffee runs.

“The main goal for me this summer is simply to lay a foundation for a code school,” Vareberg said.

“A resounding ‘yes'”

Step one in Vareberg’s project was to research existing code schools and assess the feasibility of implementing one in Fargo, and he had some pretty sweet people guiding him along the way. So far, his summer has consisted of meetings with community members, employers, and code school instructors and graduates. Jake Joranstaad of Myriad Mobile has been “essentially a mentor” to Vareberg, and The Greater Fargo-Moorhead EDC’s John Mahachek has helped point him in the direction of employers. In June, he traveled to Minneapolis to learn from the guys at Prime Digital Academy.

And the results of his research have been pretty dang positive.

“The community is in huge support of the code school, there’s just some skepticism about what will be taught and if it will be applicable to the majority of companies in the area,” Vareberg said. “But other than that, there’s a pretty resounding ‘yes’ that Fargo needs some sort of talent development program like a code school.”

At Drone Focus Con last month, Adam shared his idea with the Guru of Geek himself, Marlo Anderson.

“He was very excited,” Vareberg said. “He thought it was something that could happen in Fargo, and also something that could happen throughout the state.”

Now Vareberg, who not-so-long ago knew not-so-much about code schools, agrees that implementing one is the obvious choice for continuing Fargo’s progress in the tech industry.

“Computer science and software development are becoming so integral in every industry and every company that ten years from now, it will almost be necessary for the majority of people to know some level of coding,” he said. “I think implementing a code school is a necessary step for Fargo to establish themselves in the Midwest as  a tech hub and sort of get off the ground in that respect.”

What it would look like

The second step in Vareberg’s project was to lay out a design of the code school. Based on the research he conducted of successful schools (like Prime), Vareberg said that the school will ideally be a twelve-week program at 50 hours a week– a total of 600-700 total hours of intensive coding experience, all for a tuition price somewhere between $5,000-$10,000. 

“The idea is to take somebody who has no experience with coding and turn them into an entry-level developer through the programming that we have,” he said.

The program would be available to four cohorts of ten to fifteen students a year, and Vareberg wants it to be open to all–from a 50-something interested in making a career switch to a recent high school grad who does not see a four-year or two-year program as their right fit.

“I don’t think there’s any specific demographic that it applies to,” he said.

As for what the curriculum would consist of, “my recommendation would be to have very applicable skills taught along with soft skills that allow these individuals to work well in teams, as well as to build projects and be able to present these projects well and communicate their ideas well,” Vareberg said.

Moving forward

Now, Vareberg is on to the third step in his summer project: getting the community involved.

“It needs to be a code school made for the community, but also made by the community,” he said.

Vareberg admits that, while he is setting the foundation for the code school, he is not qualified to write curriculum, instruct, or “run this thing from the ground up.” To move forward, he needs people to step forward and express interest in building, teaching, and learning from the program.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities for Fargo to grow as a tech hub, and there are a lot of people invested in seeing that happen,” he said. “A code school would provide those people with the right skills to make that happen.”


What better place to get the community involved than at 1 Million Cups? Hear from Adam on July 6th at the Stage at Island Park.

Katie Beedy