DePaul students learn code, build apps at Blue1647

Rachel Marciano
September 09, 2015

Having a cohesive, responsive and user-friendly online presence is no longer a luxury in today's business world. It's a necessity. However, developing these sites, apps and everything in between is no small task, and anyone with the know-how has an advantage in the marketplace. That's why DePaul's Social Enterprise Collaborative teamed up with Chicago-based entrepreneurship and innovation center Blue1647 this summer to teach programming to 15 DePaul business students.

Once a week for three months, the DePaul-Blue1647 Coding Academy's inaugural cohort met in Pilsen at Blue1647 headquarters to complete the Code Chicago curriculum, designed to give individuals with no coding knowledge the competencies necessary to build their own web and mobile applications. The cohort included MBA and undergraduate business students, including international students from China, Mongolia and India. 

Programs like this are gaining popularity among students and entrepreneurs because they allow individuals to develop coding skills without pursuing technology courses outside their majors and potentially risking their GPA.  

Pablo Philipps (left), Graham Gottielb and Leonardo Gonzales work on programming their apps while class instructor Gabi Voicu floats from team to team offering insight and support. (Photo by Jamie Moncrief)

"In today's business world, coding is such a crucial skill," says Gabi Voicu, the class instructor and Code Chicago alum. "The internet is in every aspect of entrepreneurship. Understanding this 'language' helps people stay relevant in an increasingly tech-based market and gives them more control over their own social enterprises." 

During the first few weeks of the program, Voicu lectured and demonstrated techniques as students took notes on the basics. But after just a few sessions, students took theory to practice and began working with their peers to build their apps, which ranged from group chat apps to recycling around the city. Three teaching assistants also supported Voicu during the sessions.

Blue1647's ties to DePaul run deeper than just this cohort. The center's COO, Antonio Rowry, is a DePaul alum. Its founder, Emile Cambry Jr., is a member of DePaul's Social Enterprise Collaborative advisory board, where he connected with Patrick J. Murphy, a professor in the Driehaus College of Business, director of University China Engagement and founder of the Social Enterprise Collaborative. Cambry and Murphy, who have collaborated on multiple social enterprise projects, conceptualized this collaboration as a student-driven initiative spanning the 2014-15 academic year. Over the course of three quarters, Murphy's entrepreneurship students designed the Blue1647 program, fielded 65 applications, interviewed and selected the 15 cohort members, and oversaw the launch of the Coding Academy. 

"Blue1647 is helping to revolutionize the Chicago entrepreneurial community through technological innovation and social enterprise activities," Murphy says. "Their approach combines theory, practice and community in a distinctive way that aligns with DePaul's mission. The collaboration for this project is complementary; our students offer formal business, finance and accounting expertise to the Blue1647 community, and in return our students learn programming and get to connect with the amazing technological talent and active social enterprises working out of Blue1647."

Typically tuition for the boot camp is $2,000, but Blue1647 teamed with the Social Enterprise Collaborative to allow this cohort of students to attend the full 12-week seminar series free of charge. Murphy says there is potential for engaging other colleges, such as the College of Computing and Digital Media, which also offers programming courses. 

"We were very excited about this program, even though none of us knew what to expect with the inaugural run," Murphy says. "It was certainly a success and made a big splash, thanks to the world-class instructors at Blue1647 and to the student teams who designed the innovative program format."