CLAP Drop-In Center offers summer coding fun in Perry

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Chilling at the new CLA Center are, from left, CLA student Andrew Dowd, CLA student and DMACC intern Eoin Davis, CLA students Austin Soll, and DMACC computer language instructor Edwin Martinez.


DMACC intern Eoin Davis, left, watches DMACC instructor Edwin Martinez use the virtual-reality gear in the CLAP Center.

A new outreach arm of the DMACC Perry Computer Languages Academy has opened for the summer: the Computer Language Academy Program (CLAP) Drop-In Center at 1122 Willis Ave. in the Towncraft gallery.

Eoin Davis, a second-year student in the Computer Languages Academy (CLA), is DMACC’s summer intern who is coordinating the CLAP center and programming activities.

“We’re here for kids who might be interested in programming and those who already are,” Davis said. “It’s just a safe and fun place to get people interested in the CLAP program and computers in general.”

The CLAP center is set up with three virtual reality (VR) sets — one wireless and two tethered — as well as other coding gear and is decorated with lights, posters and a claw crane for grabbing DMACC swag.

Davis said the the summer’s planned programs include a three-day middle school game development camp and a weekend-long programing hack-a-thon, in which teams work on a project in support of a local nonprofit group. There will also be tournaments, he said, and plenty of casual activities, such as watch parties and board games.

The CLA program at the VanKirk Career Academy already has some devoted fans. Andrew Dowd of Perry, a 2021 graduate of Perry High School, said he completed the first year of the CLA classes while still in high school. Austin Soll of Perry, a 2019 PHS grad, also praised the CLA program.

The Perry CLA is a 30-credit diploma program in software development field. Edwin Martinez, the full-time CLA instructor at the Perry VanKirk Center, said the curriculum includes classes in C# Developer, C++ Developer, Java Application Developer, Python Application Developer and SQL Application Developer.

Martinez holds a master’s degree in human-computer interaction and has particular expertise in virtual reality. The Puerto Rico native ran a software development engineering company in Urbandale before joining the DMACC team.

The Perry DMACC CLA program was born from a partnership between DMACC, Iowa Central Community College, the state of Iowa, Corteva Agriscience, Pillar Technology now part of Accenture and others in creating high-tech jobs in rural Iowa.

In September 2019, a grand opening was held for Accenture’s Rural Forge in Jefferson, a software development office in Jefferson. Other Forges are located in Des Moines, Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

DMACC Perry VanKirk Career Academy Director Eddie Diaz said that once students complete the Perry CLA program, graduates can participate in a four-month commercial software development training program at the Rural Forge, where they prepare to enter the future workforce by further developing their programming skills.

Diaz said at the conclusion of the four months, the young coding professionals might be invited to be interviewed for jobs with starting salaries in the $50,000 to $60,000 range and sometimes quickly ballooning to six figures in the high-demand, high-pay industry.

David is 1.5 years into his CLA curriculum and sees the potential.

“I’m excited by the prospect because I can show young people how much VR programming matters in the real world,” Davis said. “I hope they see they can change the future with computers.”

For more information on the Computer Languages Academy, contact Eddie Diaz at ediaz@dmacc.edu or visit the DMACC website.

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