We help a select group of dedicated, driven students learn computer programming, engineering, entrepreneurship, and professional skills in a personal, social environment.
SkilStak™ is a unique educational network of after school programs, on site classes, mentoring, and private schools. We’re taking tech education viral and believe learning to code—in person, face-to-face, apprentice-style—is not only fun and empowering but also prepares students socially for college, career, and life.
Congratulations you found us! We do very little advertising other than yearbooks, local sponsorships, and volunteer work. We figure there are better ways to spend advertising dollars, like paying students for helping out. We aren’t into winning you over with flashy, fluffy marketing. We want you to come for the right reasons, authentic reasons. Most students have been referred by others or found us themselves. In fact, we get downright metaphysical in our belief students are led to us when the time is right. Is the time right for you?
Small by Design
Small means agile and personal. We like small. Our schools are small. Our class sizes are small. We figure when we hit more than 200 students at a given location that it’s time for a new one. About 200 seems to be the magic number of students a single location manager can know and follow personally. A location manager is the closest thing we have to a principal.
Each student is grouped with three or four other students and a teacher assistant based on aptitude, personality, and learning style. We select our teacher assistants from among our most dedicated and exceptional senior students. Having learned the skills themselves, TAs connect and communicate well with students learning the same material. This reinforces the TAs learning as well and gives TAs an opportunity to earn rebates on their tuition in addition to something for their resumes and college applications later.
Our classrooms are designed with partial separation to help with sound levels. Each group feels like its own class. Core concepts are taught together briefly and then groups take on the task of the day with their personal TAs. The instructor is always available rotating through each group checking on status and offering guidance to both students and TAs.
Staying small means the manager of each location can personally connect with every student and parent. Building a personal relationship is the most important SkilStak™ value next to student learning. This helps maintain the family feel of every class.
You won’t find any way to register on this site and you never will. That’s because we want to meet you first. There is simply no better way to understand your needs than to discuss them in person. You can read more about this in the Meet Us section.
Even though you will find all our materials online for free, you will never see any SkilStak™ offering entirely online. We don’t believe in hoarding knowledge to make a buck and we praise online education for opening knowledge to millions but there is something very real, special, unique, and valuable when learning that same content in person from instructors, assistants, friends, and mentors from the industry. If you are not doing a thing regularly then how can you teach it? We call this apprentice-style and believe it is one of the oldest, most successful ways to learn because it recognizes every single student as an individual who learns differently.
Every course is carefully selected from current and future technologies that are real and relevant. In fact, this has forced us to create much of our own curriculum because there simply isn’t any good educational material on it yet. As a result, our curriculum and materials change much more quickly and organically than most every other school, almost too quickly some students lament, but this is simply the nature of technology and the pace of change is only increasing.
To help keep up, we use GitHub Classrooms to manage our course materials the same way we manage code. There is no better learning management system than GitHub itself. Changes are immediate and on-going. This is the closest thing to a textbook SkilStak™ will ever have. The term “technology textbook” is practically an oxymoron today.
Learning seems to take better when it is fun. Whether it be learning command-line, tab completion skills playing Minecraft, or constructing your own Flappy bird clone games using the same web technology as front end engineers and game developers, fun introduces students to real skills with less intimidation and frustration.
Every class ends with at least 15 minutes of digital recess where students model a lot of the same behaviors they would on the playground, just sitting next to each other in the classroom. This gives the instructors and assistants an opportunity to help anyone having trouble wrapping up and to review progress.
Just in Time Learning
Anyone who has spent any amount of time working with technology today knows the most important skill to learn is how to learn, often just in time to make the deadline. When combined with a solid foundation in logical thinking and creative problem solving just-in-time learning allows one to quickly digest any relevant technology, understand it, and apply it productively.
While SkilStak™ is not associated with Montessori™, we have always shared philosophical and pedagogical preferences. The biggest of these are independence, accountability, fostering internal drive, and ownership of one’s own learning. The loose structure and emphasis on mastery over gold-star, false progress at SkilStak™ demonstrates our commitment to these principles. You won’t find any numbers in any of our courses and you won’t find any grades, but you will find mastery.
Mastery is measured by certification as would be done on the job or when applying for a job. Each student gets a private GitHub Classroom repository for each course to contain and archive their work. Students, parents, and instructors can monitor all work and provide documented feedback using the same methods professionals use to work on open source development projects. Anyone is encouraged to use our unique curriculum for free under its OER license. We strongly recommend GitHub Classrooms and are available to help schools and businesses setup their own programs.
Location managers are drawn from the ranks of veteran technologists often nearing retirement who have made their mark in the world and now want to give something back. We affectionately, and with a little cheek, call them the Masters. These seasoned professionals not only know tech, they know the tech industry and how to work in it.
Every Project and Professional level course is lead by a Master. Preparation and Proficiency courses are taught by instructors or senior students. All classes have one or more experienced teacher assistants who are also senior students to maintain about a 4-to-1 ratio.
The sooner students start using the tools of professionals, the sooner they become professionals.
While we support and assist traditional educational institutions that heavily depend on educational versions of things, we believe the best way to learn and teach is by using the same workflows and tools professionals do, just more slowly. This means using the command-line instead of IDLE, for example, VIM instead of mousy graphic interfaces, and Mac and Linux computers over Microsoft.
Early Employment Opportunities
We believe strongly in helping students work as soon as possible in positions they choose and love. Teachers assistants and student instructors are hired from exceptional students and paid in rebates to tuition. Some motivated students have paid their entire tuition with these work opportunities.
Our students have started coding clubs in their schools and been invited to share what they know in different ways. Some prefer coding projects for SkilStak™ including building Minecraft worlds, updating the web site, system administration tools and more. More than ten thousand dollars has been paid back to SkilStak™ students so far as rebates. This might not seem like much, but we are proud to say our students literally help build and run our program.
For senior students who go on to earn their SkilStak™ Certified Junior Developer title we have the SkilStak™ Professional Incubator program focused entirely on preparing and creating opportunities in the professional enterprise, higher education, and entrepreneurship. Classes are managed like small business teams with Agile weekly reporting, project documentation repos with issues and more. Recruiters and professionals from the tech community are invited to visit, share, and mentor Pro students. Occasionally we take field trips to local tech conferences, meetups, and on-site tours of local tech companies. If you are a technical professional interested in helping out please let us know.
SkilStak™ Pro students have also done paid work for customers while attending SkilStak™. Our instructors provide that needed safety net bolstering the confidence of students as they create their own sites and apps for themselves or customers. Some of our students have gone on to work remotely for companies in Australia, create security drones with Raspberry Pi, form their own LLCs, be selected for highly competitive FBI-invite security camps, and partnered with SkilStak™ to take flight on their own teaching Summer camps, workshops on regular expressions and more.
To prepare an army of qualified, personable technology professionals instilled with an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, an open and sharp mind, and a hunger to explore and contribute to the world—and to hire as many of them as possible ourselves.
Helping the Community
We believe strongly in promoting education wherever it is happening including public and private schools, local Parks and Rec, scouting programs, even organizations others would see as competitors. We encourage anyone to do whatever they can to join the education effort and will do whatever we can to promote it including giving free semesters as raffles to local schools, providing external intern and mentoring opportunities, participating and sponsoring local education meetups, and sending our SkilStak™ SWAT™ (Skilled With Awesome Technology™) team to local STEM nights. In fact, several of our students and parents have founded code clubs on their own. Need help? Let us know.
What do you want to learn?
Our main offerings are organized by tiers or levels priced by semesters, which are usually 16 weeks of 90 minute classes. Understanding these levels is a part of the Prep course since it helps give students a vision of their future and where they are on the path.
Who Can Apply
Anyone can apply but SkilStak™ tends to attract students that don’t seem to fit in elsewhere or who are very bored with their current school. Most of us who work and attend SkilStak™ fall proudly on the spectrum between geek and nerd. Though we do sometimes accept adult students the style and materials are designed with younger students in mind, roughly 8 to 18.
Applications are judged based on maturity, aptitude, dedication, and fit and SkilStak™ reserves the right to accept only those applicants we feel will benefit and contribute the most.
An application process starts with a conversation. Find the location contact information and call or email your location. You can also always call 704-310-6778 or email email@example.com to help you find your location. You'll be directed to your location manager who will explain things, talk to you about availability, answer questions, and ensure you understand where to find more information including pricing and expectations.
We take a highly personalized approach to registration and enrollment, no forms to fill out or buttons to click. This surprises some since we are a technology company but we feel the human connection is critical—especially during enrollment. Nothing should get in the way.
Schedule a Free Audit
If after speaking everyone still agrees SkilStak™ looks like something the applicant might want then we set up a free audit. This gives students a chance to see what it is like here, what is expected of students, ask questions from other students, and let staff evaluate the student. Sometimes more than one audit is appropriate.
If the applicant is excited about beginning and receives staff approval the student can register in any available classes or put their name on the waiting list. Priority is given to currently enrolled and returning students. The process of registration involves first sending an email confirming the desire to register and for which courses followed by payment through PayPal invoicing, which takes all major credit cards and can be linked to checking accounts as well.
The only information required to register a new student is the following:
- Contact: name, phone, email
- Student: name, birth date, preferred screen name
Everything else is done as a part of Prep, the first course everyone takes to prepare for the rest. Students can register any time during the semester for Prep and pay only for the remaining classes of the semester at the prorated price.
Congratulations you climbed down the wall of text! Or did you? *wink* Yeah, we don't do “TL;DR;”. Believe it or not we constructed this wall on purpose. Sometimes you just need to read, no videos, no fancy widgets, no animated transitions, no pictures, no “marketing optimization”, no Bootstrap templates, just well-chosen words. If reading this much hurts your eyes, bores you, takes up too much time, seems superfluous, beneath you, inconsiderate, or is otherwise too bothersome, then SkilStak™ probably isn’t the right place for you or your child. On the other hand, if you are saying “YES! Words rock!” then we definitely want to meet you as soon as possible. There’s a good chance you are already a SkilStak™ native ready to learn and contribute with the rest of us. It’s better for everyone that you know this now.
If this describes you, feel free to sign up for our mailing list in the location box above.