It’s been a little over year since he heard of CS50x Miami, but in that short amount of time Arturo J. Gomez Real has come so far in his development as a leader that Harvard University has offered him a job. Upon completion of his associate degree from MDC, he is expected to move to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to assume his position as a preceptor in computer science.
Born in Venezuela, Arturo, his brother and parents immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 to follow the American dream. While still in high school, he registered at Miami Dade College with the intention of majoring in neuroscience, but later switched to political science. His big dream was to attend Harvard one day. Though his path there wasn’t exactly clear yet, he was doing his best at MDC to prepare himself academically for that future.
Then, he found out about CS50x Miami, a version of Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science offered at The Idea Center at Miami Dade College. Located in a new building on Wolfson Campus, The Idea Center is the place where MDC students from all disciplines can gather, collaborate and take advantage of resources and training to develop their entrepreneurial ideas. It’s a hub for innovation, offering a number of courses, workshops and degree programs.
A College email announcing that CS50x Miami was being offered at MDC grabbed Arturo’s attention immediately. Although he had no prior experience with coding, he registered for the course. When it came to computer programs, Arturo admits that he could make a decent PowerPoint presentation, but that was about it. Fortunately for him, the cutting-edge course is designed to teach students with or without prior programming experience.
“More than anything else, that course really taught me how to think like a programmer.”
“It was 20 weeks of grueling computer science work,” Arturo said. “Very abstract thinking. More than anything else, that course really taught me how to think like a programmer.”
In collaboration with Harvard, Miami Dade College has created a hybrid form of the course that extends it to 20 weeks, with six weeks of specialized tracks. It’s an innovative approach to teaching that includes problem sets inspired by real-world domains of biology, cryptography, finance, forensics and gaming. The course also includes quizzes, projects and one-on-one mentorship. Students who complete the course receive a certificate of completion from MDC.
After taking the course, Arturo’s dream of going to Harvard was closer than he imagined. In addition to offering the course, Harvard presents a yearly CS50x Hackathon and Fair that Arturo desperately wanted to attend, but he lacked the funds. A Hackathon is an event that can last from several hours to several days, in which groups of people gather to collaboratively work on programming solutions to problems or issues presented to them. Determined not to miss it, Arturo launched a campaign on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe, where he quickly raised the necessary resources to cover his stay in Cambridge.
Hackathons are part of the CS50x course at MDC, so Arturo had an advantage in that he had already been through one. He had also met some of the staff from Harvard who had come to MDC to present live lectures and lead the MDC Hackathon.
Due to his prior experience with the subject matter, Arturo quickly found himself in the position of helping others. Once he arrived at Cambridge, he immediately began to function in a support role – that gave him the opportunity to work alongside CS50 staff from Harvard and Yale.
“Shortly after I returned from the Hackathon at Cambridge, I got a phone call from David Malan who is the lead instructor of the CS50 course at Harvard,” said Arturo. He offered me a position at the university, starting in June!”
LaunchCode is a nonprofit created by Square Founder Jim McKelvey. Its aim is to bridge the technology gap by helping to place skilled individuals in tech-related positions. Their Miami headquarters are situated at The idea Center with whom they have a partnership as the official hiring partner for CS50x. Upon completion of the course, students are directed toward LaunchCode for career assistance. The organization will help students get placed in paid apprenticeship or staff positions in companies around town, depending on the student’s skills, interests and preferences.
“CS50x Miami opened up a world of opportunities for me as well as my classmates, and joining the Harvard staff will bring the CS50 experience full circle,” said Arturo. “Not only will I be working at my dream school, I also hope to be able to continue my studies there.”
For more information, visit: theideacenter.co/cs50xmiami