How can one learn about Computer Science if one does not attend an accredited university?

1 Answer

By the numbers:

  • 2009: Chip got good a Microsoft Access and VBA while working for the Red Cross 
  • 2010: Chip learned MySQL and PHP to deploy WAMP stacks to get his databases into an online format
  • 2011: Mark introduced Chip to Ruby on Rails at the first Grand Rapids GiveCamp
  • 2012: Chip cut his teeth on an inventory app for the Red Cross (with help from GiveCamp)
  • 2015: Chip launched his first solo web app: a time management and tracking site for grant-based work for the Refugee Education Center
  • 2017: Code for Good helped Chip spin up an event registration app for 20 Liters (filterbuildscheduler), Chip finished it up and deployed it in less than 3 months
  • 2017: Chip wrote his first API to take a JSON payload from a Stripe Webhook and use it to create a donation record in 20 Liters' donor CRM via their API
  • 2018: Chip added a complex inventory module to filterbuildscheduler that used event results to automatically update inventory counts
  • 2019: Chip again worked with Code for Good to deploy a program reporting and micro-blogging application for 20 Liters (liters_tracker)
  • 2019: Chip wrote a project management app for Family Promise of West Michigan that included API integration with Google Tasks and Calendar
  • 2020: Chip turned his fully-fledged project management app for Family Promise into a simple app that integrated with and extended the functionality of Google Tasks
  • 2021: Chip built a Gmail API service into filterbuildscheduler so that emails between 20 Liters staff and donors are recorded in their donor CRM

From the earliest days:
In High School math classes, Chip learned he could program algebraic equations into his TI-86 calculator. Equations he was supposed to memorize for tests.

While at the American Red Cross, Chip's Microsoft Office skills progressed from basic Excel usage to complex Excel functions to VBA for Excel to MS Access.
Getting those Access programs onto the internet led to Chip installing WAMP and LAMP stacks, and assigning network ports. It also meant he had to learn PHP and MySQL.

Chip was fascinated by what was possible, but frankly, disliked almost everything he was working with. When writing SQL queries is the best part, something is wrong.

Then, in 2011, one of Chip's colleagues heard about the first-ever Grand Rapids GiveCamp event and asked if Chip had any project ideas. That first weekend-long coding session was a life-changer for Chip. Not only was the Mutually Human team really fun to be around, but they actually let Chip help by doing QA testing. A few members of the team, especially Mark Van Holstyn, encouraged Chip that he could learn Ruby on Rails and pointed him to a lot of great resources.

From then on, Chip has been coding in the evenings and on weekends, stumbling through new concepts and technologies, getting really good at Rails and not too bad at Ruby.

When Chip is feeling the perfect mix of cocky and inspired, he dives into StackOverflow and does his best to answer every newly posted Ruby-related question. He remembers how much SO helped him out when he would get stuck, or lost, or off the rails and he wants to give back.