Running an intern program

This year I am running an unpaid internship program for high school students. I work for a small company. We have ideas for a few side projects but never have time to do them. So we experiment by making them intern projects. In return, we give these interns guidance to learn, personal attentions, and opportunities with real-world projects.

A few years ago, I blogged about the idea of teaching kids to write application with no more than 6 hours of training. This time, I was able to reduce the instruction time to 4 hours and immediately put them into real work projects. When they encounter problems, I combine directions, pointer to various materials on w3school, Udacity, Codecademy and UTube, as well as encouraging them to  search for solutions with search engines. Now entering the third week, I am more than encouraged and feeling accomplished. Our the most senior intern, Christopher Chen, is a recent high school graduate and is heading to UC Berkeley to study computer science after the summer. He previously only had one year of Java experience through the AP computer science course but had no web development experience. Only 12 days into his internship, he has already gain advanced css skills with deeper understanding than more than half of the “senior” developers that I have ever worked with. I put him on a project to migrate an existing website to the Orchard content management system (CMS) with which I am new as well. We were able to teach each other and quickly gain advanced Orchard skills such as creating custom theme and modules. I felt very much a relationship similar to the those between professors and graduate students. On the other hand, I quite expect that I will lose him the next summer to companies like Google, Facebook or Microsoft.

As a side note, Christopher and I will do a two part Orchard presentations together at the next SoCal code camp at UC San Diego July 27-28. The first part, “creating an Orchard website on Azure in 60 minutes”, is an introductory lecture and we will discuss how to create a website using Orchard without writing code. The 2nd part, “customizing Orchard websites without limit”, is an advanced lecture and we will discuss custom theme and module development with WebMatrix and Visual Studio.

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