Wyoming Coding School Could Keep More Students in the State

A Wyoming graduate opens a coding school to help students learn tech skills in their home state so they don't have to leave like he did.

by Becky Orr, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne / July 11, 2016 0

(TNS) — CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A new school that will teach coding skills and prepare students for careers in professional website development will open Oct. 3 in downtown Cheyenne.

Array, School of Technology and Design, is accepting applications for its first six-month class that starts Oct. 3.

This is the first coding school in Wyoming. The cutting-edge private school helps fill a need for professional coders that exists in Cheyenne, Wyoming and across the country, supporters say.

Coders are trained to write in languages that computers understand using creative problem-solving and logic.

Array is located at The Second Floor of the Para-mount, a co-working office space at 1607 Capitol Ave.

Eric Trowbridge, a 2004 Cheyenne Central High graduate, is Array's executive director and headmaster. An enthusiastic cheerleader for the school, he has a strong background in computer technology.

Trowbridge worked for Apple Inc. for eight years in several cities, including San Francisco. He started a video game company in 2014 when he returned to Cheyenne.

Trowbridge left Cheyenne in 2004 because he couldn't get the technology education and training he needed. If Array was open then, he said he could have stayed here for his education.

"We have a lot of confidence in him. And he's going to be a huge catalyst," Bob Jensen, former chief executive officer of the Wyoming Business Council, said of Trowbridge.

Jensen and Matt Kaufman, both of Cheyenne, identified the need for the school. They and other key players developed Array.

The first class of 12 students will learn full-stack web development. "We are going to give you the full scope of what web design looks like," Trowbridge said. Students will learn key software packages for website development and design.

Programming languages that will be taught include HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Ruby. Students also will learn typography and color theory.

Coursework includes plenty of hands-on projects.

Its goal is to help students develop a "tool belt" of web programming languages, Trowbridge said.

"Our focus is on getting people a skills set in a short amount of time so they are able to transition into a new job in the tech industry," he said. "Our focus is to get you a job."

Entry-level jobs in the career can pay $75,000 per year or more, according to an Array news release.

At similar coding schools in the country, more than 90 percent of graduates get jobs within six months of graduation.

Array also can help people who lost jobs in the coal industry sector, for example, and are looking for new careers.

"I think this is coming at such an optimum time for the state of Wyoming," Kaufman said. "As everyone knows we need economic diversification."

Tuition is $15,000, which is below the national average for such programs. Each student will receive a MacBook to keep. Financial aid is available.

Although website development is a component of the school, it also will teach a wide variety of programming skills, Jensen said.

"We are very excited about the school," Shawn Mills, chief executive officer of Green House Data, a co-location and cloud hosting company in Cheyenne, said. "Getting a coding school in Cheyenne is definitely something that will be helpful for us."

Dick McGinity, president emeritus at the University of Wyoming, supports the school.

"The Array, School of Technology and Design is a private sector solution to three of Wyoming's most pressing needs today: economic diversification, building a statewide entrepreneurial ecosystem, and education in foundational skills essential for employment in the digital economy that all of us now live and work in. It will be a great asset to Wyoming and its people," McGinity said in a news release.

Array has a six-member board who also invested in the project. In addition to Jensen and Kaufman, a Cheyenne attorney, other founding board members are Steve Borin, Tighe Fagan, Jesse Fishman and Glen Garrett.

Technical advisers include Catherine Fincun, an industry recruiter at IBM Design, and Dillon Petrillo, the film creative lead at Airbnb.

The school can help with local economic development and encourage more people to stay in the capital city, according to Jensen.

Its operation also can help create a culture that's more welcoming to young people, Trowbridge said in a news release. The school can attract young people here and keep existing young people from leaving.

"Array has a significant opportunity to really change and grow Wyoming's technology industry," Trowbridge said.

©2016 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.