blog article

Coding Dojo’s Algorithm Platform Q&A with Martin Puryear

By Nick Toscano
Last Updated September 9, 2015


A plethora of learning platforms are available online to learn how to code today. While lessons from online coding resources like Codecademy, Team Treehouse, Lynda, and CodeSchool can help increase students’ coding literacy, preparing for a coding bootcamp application requires a deep-dive into algorithms. Now you can get this algorithm training, for free, via Coding Dojo’s Algorithm Platform. Martin Puryear is a lead instructor and principal engineer at Coding Dojo and recently took the time to discuss with us the latest happenings with their learning app.


Could you give us a snapshot of Coding Dojo’s Algorithm Platform?

Coding Dojo’s Algorithm Platform is a tool that lets prospective bootcampers gauge their ability to succeed in the world of coding by practicing the fundamentals first. The application is designed to help prospective students gauge their aptitude as well as improve their skills with increasingly challenging levels.It’s also a great way to experiment with the basics of coding in a risk-free environment, rather than jumping right into a coding school and realizing that you really don’t like algorithms as much as you thought you would.

What’s great, is that our platform isn’t just for potential Coding Dojo students. It’s designed for anyone thinking about pursuing a career in programming or seeking to hone their fundamental coding skills. It’s completely free and open to all users.

We heard you recently updated your Algorithm Platform?

That’s right! We continue to add more capabilities to the platform since it’s original launch in March. Initially, the Algorithm Platform consisted of six different levels, each having 5-10 challenges. Since then, we’ve added more challenges the existing levels, along with additional levels that go deeper topics like loops, if/else statements and array manipulation, while also introducing new ones. Most importantly, we’ve added a new section that goes beyond simply predicting the output of code, and instead challenges our users to write their own!

Why did your team decide to make this platform, and make it open to everyone instead of for Coding Dojo students only?

As far as algorithms go, I’m really a true believer. Algorithms are so universal. They’re applicable in any language, they’re applicable in just about any different software that you might write, whether it’s software that’s working closely with the database or middle tier; there are algorithms all around us when we’re writing code.

With that in mind, the Algorithm Platform was originally created to be part of Coding Dojo’s admissions process. Applicants were required to complete the challenges on the algorithm platform, which served several purposes. First, it allowed the applicant to see if they enjoyed this type of thinking. Second, it allowed us to see how well they were grasping the concepts and, third, it gave students time to digest algorithms and hopefully have them become second nature before the course kicked off.

We started realizing that this is something that anyone would get value from, whether they choose to attend Coding Dojo, or an alternative bootcamp. So, we figured, why not make it accessible to everyone?

Is the algorithm platform still a requirement for people who are applying to Coding Dojo?

It’s no longer a requirement, although if someone is interested in applying to Coding Dojo, or another bootcamp, we highly encourage them to practice algorithms pre-bootcamp using the platform. Once they’re accepted we tell them, “Okay, this is the type of thing you’re going to be focusing on all day every day for three months so you may as well get started on it before hand to give yourself the best possible head start.”

Is the algorithm platform suitable for beginners?

Absolutely! There aren’t any pre-requisites for someone to jump in and get a start on some of the prediction challenges. The levels become increasingly harder, which is why we do start with very basic concepts.

For example, the very first challenge is to predict the output of two lines of code, one is declaring a variable with a value 5 and the next line is printing out the value of that variable. As you can see, it really does start with basic concepts. Over the course of the 11 levels in the prediction section, it covers if statements, arrays and loops. That’s as far as the prediction challenges go.

The other aspect of these prediction challenges is that they’re timed. This means you can re-visit these challenges even after you’ve gone through all of the levels once or twice, try to do better and better as far as how rapidly you can evaluate that code and get the right output entered. After each problem there is the opportunity, if you wanted, to see a video tutorial on how one of our instructors thinks about that problem and solves it.

Can you tell us more about the Coding Challenge section?

In the coding challenge section there are a set of 13 problems. They as well range from more straightforward such as, “print all the numbers from 1 to 255,” to something more evolved where you’re iterating through an array, looking at the values in an array, and outputting different things based on the values.

Just like the prediction challenges, coding challenges are timed and the platform provides video walkthroughs showing how our instructors think and solve each particular problem.

What’s next for the algorithm platform?

The realm of possibilities is wide open. It’s clear that we can continue to extend the prediction challenges into additional areas like associative arrays, dictionaries or linked lists since these are the next steps for students learning to code.

We have some things internally for our students, and I’m sure that over time we’ll add more and more to the algorithm app that’s accessible to the public, such as more interactivity with the code that you’re writing during the coding challenge, and having multiple test cases, which can help users learn how to make their code resilient to different types of inputs.

Platforms like ours also have a lot of potential for gamification. There are a few different things that we could do there to make it interesting, whether it’s different badges or having the ability for someone to help someone else that’s on the platform and get a few extra game points that way.

Is there any intention to include other languages other than JavaScript like Ruby or Python?

We might; right now we’re not teaching the core algorithm concepts to our students in other languages. JavaScript is going to be universal for any full-stack developer even if they are doing Python, Django or something like Ruby on Rails. They’ll still be using some JavaScript on the front end, if nothing else.

Who do you see using the algorithm platform?

The majority are people interested in our coding bootcamp, or students who already got accepted to our program. I definitely see that changing over time as we get the word out!

Want to learn more about Coding Dojo? Check out their School Page on Course Report or the Coding Dojo website!

About The Author

Nick Toscano is a writer, GIS specialist and aspiring web developer. He has been covering the swelling coding bootcamp industry since 2014.

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