A Surprise Birthday Present and the Gift of Teamwork: Just Another Penn Demo Day

Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp instructor Quincy Iheme never expected his boot camp participants to give him a pair of tickets for the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles for his birthday.

“Most of the class were Eagles fans,” said Quincy. “The fact that they got a gift like that took a lot of thought and coordination between the students. During class, I often made jokes at the Eagles’ expense, and I know how difficult it must have been for them to buy tickets for a Giants fan!”

Quincy Iheme (left) receiving the gift presented to him by the boot camp participants.

The surprise occurred shortly before Penn Coding Demo Day, which showcases the graduating participants of the Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp. The event enables participants to share their projects and demonstrate the skills they’ve learned in their 24-week program.

“It represents a chance for folks to come in and change their careers and change their lives,” he said. “I make it my goal to help those who come into my classroom achieve their goals. In a sense, I take their success personally.”

Something old and something new

One standout group project was the work of Shelby ReyesKenny WhitebloomSam Tauband Chris Luber. They made Beadli, an application that allows users to make virtual fuse bead designs, using digital versions of a popular assortment of the small craft items. The designs serve as a template for converting a 2D, online plan into a 3D design.

The project emerged from Shelby’s love of fuse beads. While working at arts and crafts store Michaels in high school, she picked up a love of creating intricate fuse bead designs. Shelby wished there was a better way to know how many different-colored beads each project required—beyond trial and error.

“I wanted to take something that was relevant to my interests and that I could see myself actually using,” said Shelby. “This project serves a real purpose.”

Coming together

Teammate Kenny Whitebloom hadn’t done a fuse bead project since he was a kid, but he was intrigued by Shelby’s unique idea. What’s more, they were already friends, having sat next to one another for the entire program.

Kenny, Shelby, and their other teammates put countless hours into designing the Beadli app exactly as they had imagined it. Before they presented, Kenny and Shelby spent a late night testing Beadli; they created several 2D fuse bead designs—and converted them into 3D.

As Demo Day approached, Kenny was confident that the team had given the project their all.

“No one person carried the burden of making the whole thing,” said Kenny. “We really gave all of ourselves to get there.”

Presenting the final product

On Demo Day, the team set up their presentation, complete with real fuse bead projects that mirrored Beadli’s designs. Parents, children, and other boot camp students were able to test their hand with the app. It was one of the event’s highlights.

“People came over to us saying, ‘Oh wow, I haven’t seen these since I was at summer camp!’,” said Shelby. “It was fun to see their eyes light up when they saw it. I think it really was unique.”

Demo Day served as a culmination for students to showcase everything that they learned, and to gain perspective on how far they had come.

“Demo Day is important because it provides a venue for demonstrating your group’s coding and design skills to a wider audience of folks from the tech community. It’s also really fun!” said Kenny. “It’s great to have the opportunity to show off my group’s hard work—and to celebrate reaching the finish line.”

Today, the team is still updating Beadli, improving the application in the hopes of bringing it to market.

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