Architecture & Design, Higher Education, and Technology

Academy builds foundation for tech-minded students

BizStream boot camp exposes visitors to the world of coding and web development.

July 12, 2019
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Noah Hayden was one of the attendees at BizStream Academy where in addition to learning front-end technology, he also was introduced to typical tech office environments. Courtesy BizStream

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A local company is providing young people with an opportunity to learn about the technology industry.

Mark Schmidt, founder of BizStream, a web and software development company in Allendale, created BizStream Academy in 2012.

The academy is a boot camp that offers two sessions each summer to individuals ages 14 and older to experience and learn about the ever-changing world of technology in an attempt to spark the interest of students to become web programmers, developers and designers. 

Since 2012, 131 students have completed the program, including nine students who have gone on to work in the tech industry.

One of those individuals is Chris Hamm, who is now a front-end developer at BizStream. As an employee, Hamm has returned to BizStream Academy over the last few years to be an instructor, alongside his colleague, front-end developer Shelby Tieche.

Both developers will be teaching the seventh annual boot camp, starting later this month. The first session will be July 26-27 and the second session will be Aug. 2-3. The two sessions will be held on the campus of Grand Valley State University.

According to Tieche, students will be able to tour the BizStream location on the first day of each session. Michelle Lentz, marketing communication manager at BizStream, said the tour is to give students the opportunity to see what an office environment would look like while working in the tech world.

“Sometimes, there is this notion that maybe you will be stuck … in a cubicle,” she said. “We have a fun office with a very unique culture. We are very collaborative, and we have an open area. We have upbeat music playing. We provide snacks and beverages to our employees. So, it is kind of a fun way for students to see that and they can say, ‘Maybe this is a fun career I can get into.’”

The following day, students will be engaged in a full day of learning activities established through a curriculum that was created by Tieche and Hamm.

“The courses will focus on front-end technology right now,” Tieche said. “So, your basic HTML, CSS and some JavaScript will be in there, as well. There will be a lot of new concepts because the web development world is always changing, there are new things coming out all the time and we want to make sure we are teaching the students new tools they can use and have them be current with today’s practices.”

Hamm said the students, who have included high school students, recent college graduates and individuals who are considering a career change, will learn about coding, which he described as writing instructions for a computer to follow.

“(At) BizStream Academy, we always compare a website to building a house,” he said. “We are teaching them HTML, which is a code for like the frame of the house; it really gives a house the structure. Then we work on CSS, which is like the visual part, the part that users interact with. So, all of your colors, shapes, sizes and padding between texts. In the house analogy, it is your carpet, paint and wallpaper. Then we work on a little bit of JavaScript, which is like the interaction between the user and the website. If I click on a menu and it drops down or a pop-up comes up, it’s usually some sort of JavaScript that is making that happen. So, those are all just instructions of what is displayed, how it is displayed and how a user can interact with the website is really what coding comes down to.”

Once students have completed the academy session, they receive a certificate and a commemorative item such as a water bottle or a T-shirt.

Tieche said by the end of the program, students will have been exposed to the tech world and have some experience with coding, which allows them to decide whether they’d like to learn more and pursue different aspects of the industry.

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