Sixteen-year-old Ethan Eirinberg was determined to give teens new resources for learning to code even if he had to build them himself. So he founded CreateHS, a global coding contest that prompts high schoolers to hone their coding skills by developing innovative new apps.
A teen from the Chicago suburbs, Eirinberg had looked forward to learning more about programming in high school. But when he got there, he was disappointed to learn that his school didn't offer coding classes at the freshman or sophomore level.
It was the push Eirinberg needed to start a computing club at the school. “I was thinking of ways to motivate the club,” he said. “So I had an idea to create a competition for high school students around the world, like me, who want to create something but don’t have a place to do it.”
CreateHS isn’t the only coding competition for high schoolers out there. Google Code-In, for instance, has been targeting teen participants since 2010. But Eirinberg wanted a competition that emphasized creativity over straightforward problem solving.
“There are some competitions out there where it’s the standard to solve that problem, or make this solution,” he said. “What separates mine from other competitions is that it emphasizes the point of creating. You provide code to show how you could do it. You don’t just solve a problem, you create something entirely new.”
Drawing The Big Names
CreateHS isn't an amateur effort. It's sponsored by Team Treehouse, an Orlando, Fla., learn-to-code-online company, which has earlier this year said it would begin targeting the high school market. Team Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson will serve as one of the four judges for CreateHS’s inaugural contest in October—where, fittingly enough, participants will vie to create websites that teach others how to code.
"We're really excited about CreateHS and we're glad to be able to support what they're doing,” said Carson. “We can't wait to see what students code as part of the challenge and where their new skills will take them." Two other learn-to-code startup co-founders—Hadi Partovi of Code.org and Zack Sims of Codecademy— will join Carson as judges, as will Daniel Brusilovsky, the founder of Teens in Tech Labs.
Eirinberg said he had connections to Team Treehouse after his older brother won first place in a site competition last year. So when he started building resources for his school, Carson was the first person he reached out to.
“I asked Team Treehouse to sponsor the club because I wasn’t good enough to teach it,” he said. “Over 40 kids joined the club and Treehouse gave them all accounts, as many as we needed.”
CreateHS, which will offer a new challenge for high schoolers every month, has already attracted participants from around the world, including Denmark, Russia, and China. Eirinberg isn’t surprised by his competition’s popularity, seeing it as a result of tech’s increasing popularity with teenagers.
“I think [perception of tech] has changed a lot among kids,” he said. “It’s the cool thing to do now. There’s new apps out every day and everybody has an iPhone and everybody has a computer, everybody’s connected to the Web and it’s interesting to see how things work and create new things. Everybody wants to become the next Mark Zuckerberg.”
Photo courtesy of Ethan Eirinberg