Ruby on Rails is coming to TIY Orlando!

By Susanna Miller, Campus Director

I hope you’ve heard already, but come January 2015, The Iron Yard Orlando will be offering courses in more than just Front End Engineering. That’s right – we’re adding a course in Ruby on Rails! 

The class will have the same structure as our Front End Engineering course – a twelve week course, with nine weeks of lecture/lab time, and three weeks for the capstone project – and will be just as intense and exciting an experience. Ruby on Rails is one of the most popular server-side frameworks in the world, and by April, The Iron Yard will have you writing in Rails, and ready for a job as a Ruby on Rails developer. 

But the important question here is: why Rails?


Ruby – and Rails – are open source, which means you can read, study, and learn from how they were written, and tinker with them to customize them as you like. And there’s a large and thriving community working in Ruby, and continuing to grow – studying Rails will put you right in the middle of a vibrant and open community of developers who care deeply about the language. And there are several Ruby user groups here in Orlando!

Widespread use

Ruby on Rails is used by some of the largest sites in the world – from Hulu and Kickstarter, to Soundcloud and GitHub. It’s popular, and there’s a growing demand for it, particularly among startups, because it’s …

Full Stack

Ruby on Rails is a full stack framework, so it covers both front end and back end. Starting with Rails will introduce you to HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, in addition to Ruby – and working in Rails gives you control over the your entire website application.

Easy to Read

Ruby is flat out more intuitive to read than many other languages (looking at you, JavaScript). Objected-oriented and focused on getting results, it just looks more like English. Forgot that ()? No problem! Additionally, Rails is great for beginners because it has a set of standard components that’ll run fine on their own if you don’t want to customize them. 

Great Tools

There are already tons of great tools in the Rails ecosystem, like the huge array of software packages called gems, which provide features from geolocation to uploading files to registering users to accepting payments. There are also significant online resources to help you – it’s a very well-documented language. In addition to the vast Rails community, there is online support – and resources for your web app! – that are widely available.

So why take our Rails engineering course?

The class will teach students to build fast, production quality full-stack apps and well-architected server-side systems, as well as optimizing systems for desktop and mobile. The curriculum delves deep into the Ruby on Rails framework, while also providing an introduction to JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and CoffeeScript. Want more information? Check out the curriculum at

Interested in being a part of the first Ruby on Rails class we’re offering in Orlando? Apply here!

Tough Act To Follow…

By David Rogers, Orlando Front End Engineering Instructor

First off, lemme say, if you haven’t read Let Harrison Ford Be Your Spirit Animal by my fellow instructor, Brian Gates (get a webpage, bro), you should. It’s far better than this post is gonna be. Y’know, unless you’re into learning experiences.

“Start with JavaScript,” he said, “Teach programming,” he said…

I’ll be the first to admit that I did this to myself… And the dozen or so students who took my class this time around. Our Founding Father, Mason Stewart, typically teaches Front End Engineering (FEE, sounds like “whee!”) by starting with HTML and CSS and quickly weaving in JavaScript through DOM traversal and manipulation, some Constructor Madness(!!), working his way up to Backbone and the whole client-side MVC pattern. Being my first cohort at TIY, naturally I chose a completely different path. What can I say? I like to start on Expert…

Well, really, I was gathering resources from the previous classes and couldn’t help but notice how Back End Engineering (read: Ruby-on-Rails) was so very different from the JS path. The Rails class tends to start with Ruby concepts, move into HTML and CSS as kind of a breather, and then jump into Rails development for the server-side MVC. As a pure programmer myself (read: artistically deficient), that approach really appealed to me, and it felt closer to what I had developed for Valencia College. Start with an intro to programming with pure JavaScript, move into HTML and CSS for a breather, reintroduce JavaScript while building towards Angular JS as the client-side MVC. So I tried it…

So then what happened?

Turns out, it worked about as well as I expected it to… We’re now into our second week of HTML after three weeks of JavaScript. There’s only so much programming you can pack into a couple of weeks, but the test subjects… I mean, the students have shown remarkable understanding of programming concepts now that I’m reintroducing JavaScript into HTML. Since we spent time with Constructors, prototypes and Object literals in pure JavaScript, I feel they have an easier time understanding the DOM objects like HTMLElement and NodeCollection… It’s just less for them to swallow along the way, it seems.

I still have yet to introduce jQuery or any of the automated build kits — Gulp and Bower are on deck this week — but I anticipate a faster uptake since they already understand require()-ing modules and chaining commands from our test-driven romp through Node. Of course, I’ve also learned something important about my teaching style from this little diversion.

Talk Less; Build More

What I’ve learned over the last few weeks of teaching these folks at this crazy-stupid-ridiculously-fast pace is that building is better. Every time I’ve tried to explain a subject with words and pictures and analogies, the students stare back at me numbly as if to say, “Hunh?”

Instead, when I just build stuff on the screen with them watching, narrating my decisions as I go, I get lightbulbs going off, questions firing, interaction, occasional comprehension, and looks of “Keep going…!” This last week, the differences became so palpable that I finally gave up on explaining anything with lecture. I’ve just built stuff for them, live coding, asked and answered questions, and assigned lots of “now you try” for homework.

We call it “lecture”, but it feels like me doing homework problems in front of them for three hours. I’m still a little conflicted about it, but I can’t argue with the results. The lights are coming on much faster now.

Moral: Break Stuff

See, had I stuck exactly to the material I had developed for Valencia, I’d be lecturing from a slide deck, which helps me keep pace and stay on topic. I tend to ramble down side-tracks and rabbit-trails of history or trivia when I’m speaking. While interesting and (usually) entertaining, that only caters to a specific learning style, and it’s not very flexible when the class doesn’t grok some key concept, y’know, in a single day.

Further, had I stuck to the format long-established by Mason and the other FEE instructors (no offense, y’all), I would have ended up heavily regurgitating the lessons as presented by them, which are nicely documented (for the eyes of other TIY instructors only), instead of improvising through necessity. I’m lazy; I know it. Given a cornucopia of Things That Work(tm), I expect my brain to ride the coat tails of reasonably smarter other brains.

Finally, this was the last cohort of FEE classes to go “out of order” for a while. All the campuses are seriously sync-ing up next year. If ever there was a chance to experiment with the curriculum, this was it, ‘cause the urge to lock-step with everyone next year will be much harder to resist. Not that anyone’s coming down with a hammer, just that there’s safety (and efficiency!) in numbers.

I’m glad for the learning experience, and I’m taking lots of notes on what to do next time to improve on the format, the pacing, and the learning objectives. I’m honestly looking forward to my second cohort with every mistake, recovery, and redirection. I’m grateful to have a place where I can experiment in this fashion and students who give terrific feedback about what’s working, what’s not, and how we can all improve.

Let Harrison Ford be Your Spirit Animal

By Brian Gates, Front End Engineering TA

David Rogers, the front end engineering instructor here in Orlando, likes to tell his students not to be “Han Solo” – meaning, don’t try to get through the whole program working on your own. While I appreciate the message, I can’t approve of the phrasing. I don’t mind the terrible pun, that’s Lucas’ fault anyway, but I do think it’s unfair to Han Solo, who did end up coming back to save the day at the end of Star Wars. (um, spoiler alert.)
Still, Harrison Ford’s iconic movie roles have plenty of lessons for success in The IronYard (and life, really, but I’ll focus on TIY).
You Can Help – Even when you feel blind from too many hours staring at your own code (or too long frozen in Carbonite), you can still get in a position to help someone else who’s stuck.
“No, you’re missing a semicolon. I see it.”
Know When to Let Go – Sometimes you will have problems that you can’t quite solve as well as you’d like. Sometimes you will think of improvements that could make things so much prettier/cooler/more elegant/more awesome, if you could only spend more time.
“I can get it. I can almost reach it”
There will always be more to do. Sometimes you have to listen to Sean Connery saying “Let it go.”
Read The Documentation – You are going to have to dig deep to make things work. If you don’t thoroughly read the instructions up front, though, you can end up digging in the wrong place.
“And take back one Kadan, to honor the Hebrew God whose ark this is. That’s a non-backwards-compatible change they introduced in version 3.0.”
Quick and Sloppy Beats Getting Crushed – There’s a time and a place for careful, precise planning.
There’s also a time and place for ditching the careful plan and just getting away from the giant thing that’s about to flatten you. Learn which is which.
Celebrate the Victories – You’ll have wins while there are still big problems in front of you. It’s ok to savor the wins.
Still in his future: Getting strapped to a table and tortured, being frozen solid, sleeping next to animal intestines in the snow, and watching his future wife make out with her brother. But he can enjoy the moment.

Successful Orlando Tech Meetup at The Iron Yard!

By Susanna Miller, Campus Director

A great turnout on Friday at The Iron Yard Orlando to hear Matt Wallaert – kudos to the Orlando Tech Association for putting the event together! There were 65 attendees, and a fantastics Q&A afterwards. Looking forward to future events and collaboration with the Orlando Tech Association!

Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Scientist @ Bing, Will be Here Tomorrow!

By Susanna Miller, Campus Director

At 6pm tomorrow, The Iron Yard Orlando will be hosting Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Scientist @ Bing, as he speaks at an Orlando Tech Meetup in our space here at 101 S. Garland Ave. This is a great opportunity to meet him and ask questions, and I hope you’ll join us! 

You can find more information on our Meetup page:

See you then!


New Face at The Iron Yard Orlando!

By Susanna Miller, Campus Director

Hi everyone! This is my first official communication as the Campus Director at The Iron Yard Orlando, and I’m excited to let everyone know that I’m transitioning onto the team here over the next week. 


See? Super excited. And it’s an official picture, because David is in it too (albeit without his actual knowledge)

To give you a little more information about me, I’m not a native of Orlando – I grew up kind of all over the place, though primarily in Kenya and sometimes in the Southern US. I went to college at Birmingham-Southern (Forward Ever!) and found myself in Orlando when I started my MBA at Rollins (Go Crummer! EA19!). My background is primarily in nonprofit management, and you may have seen me around at Rollins events, various Orlando nonprofits, or the Jacksonville low-income housing scene (isn’t everyone familiar with that?)

And now that you know a bit about my background, here’s what I’m excited for in my future at The Iron Yard:

  1. The students! I can’t wait to spend time with our 13 amazing Front End Engineering students, and I’m looking forward to figuring out how I can help each of them to have the best possible experience at the Academy, and get the most out of their time here.
  2. Getting to know my team! The people working here in the Orlando team are great, and they’re already helping make my transition really smooth.
  3. Y’all! I’m looking forward to being a part of the tech scene here in Orlando, and carrying on the process of making The Iron Yard a key contributor to our growing tech sector.

Have questions? Want to learn more about The Iron Yard? Drop me a line at!

Welcome to Week 2

By Sarah Elbadri, Campus Director

We are officially in Week 2 at The Iron Yard! Very quickly, our students have demonstrated how much they can absorb and create in such a short time. So far they’ve been heavily exposed to Git and Github, Jekyll, and Cloud 9, and over the weekend built their blogs on Github Pages. As a campus they’ve also been using tools like Basecamp and HipChat, as well as practicing agile methodologies to communicate progress on their projects.

On Friday, we kicked off our guest lecture series with Olivier Lacan from Code School, who showed our students how Code School uses Github internally and demonstrated a couple neat tools that he uses to improve his workflow. 

This week our students are jumping into JavaScript! As a primer our students watched a great talk by Gary Bernhardt called the The Birth and Death of JavaScript during lunch on yesterday. I’m pretty sure they’ll be calling it YavaScript on and off for the next 11 weeks.

It’s Go Time!

By Sarah Elbadri, Campus Director

Here we are…

The Iron Yard – Orlando’s inaugural class officially launched this morning! After a great dinner last night, breaking in the space with our friends and families, our class is in full Iron Yard mode. We have 14 awesome students that represent a diversity of age, backgrounds, and personalities. For those of you keeping up with our blog, we’ll post more about our individual students throughout the course of the class, and also highlight some of the blogging they’ll be doing to document their experience (the good, the bad, the ugly, and the “Ah ha!” moments) here at The Iron Yard.  

First Day of School!
We were lucky to have Eric Dodds, a partner at The Iron Yard, in the house to talk to our students about our mission as an organization. It’s something that everyone who’s reading this should read through, but what I’d like to reiterate about Eric’s talk is our commitment to “training the highest-quality developers in the world, both in skill and in character.” While we’re preparing our students to be professional programmers, we’re also helping to grow the tech community and foster good, global citizens. This isn’t just about 12 weeks in a class— this is about unleashing productive problem solvers with a view of programming as life-long study into the world to make it a better place for everyone. 


After Eric’s kickoff and a welcome from me going over the logistics of our campus, our Front End Instructor David Rogers, known to many in the tech community as “Al_The_X”, took over, circled up the class, and initiated our inaugural, daily morning stand-up by asking our students to answer 3 simple questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you doing today?
  • What, if anything, is in your way?

This is going to be standard operating procedure for our class moving forward, but it was interesting to hear how each of our students spent their time preparing for the first day of class, which ranged from finishing up pre-work David assigned, to reviewing Code School courses, to mentally preparing for these 12 weeks with mediation. 

While our class has just started, we’re all looking forward to the epic journey this will be for our students!  It’s going to be really difficult for all them, and probably one of the greatest challenges they’ll ever face, but it’s incredible how much they’ll learn in 12 weeks and where they’ll be after The Iron Yard. Today was just Day 1!