# Learn Code, Save the World

SkilStak is a learning community focused on coding with modern programming practices, managing data, using and administering Linux systems, configuring networks, engineering hardware, and testing the security of it all. Since 2013 we have helped hundreds of all ages, backgrounds, and aptitudes learn these skills while having fun, preparing for college, and improving employment. Content and community really do provide opportunity. Never before has there been more reason to empower yourself. Learn code, save the world.

Congratulations, you found us! We do very little advertising. Most find us through referrals. We like it that way. We place priority on authenticity. We figure there are better ways to spend advertising dollars. In fact, we get downright metaphysical in our belief that people are led to us when the time is right. Is the time right for you?

Prices

Here are our prices up front so you can decide immediately if SkilStak is in your price range. We have done everything possible to maintain a low overhead and maximize opportunity for as many as we can. PayPal does offer financing (independent of SkilStak) if that helps. Prices are per semester. A semester is 16, 90 minute weekly lab sessions:

¹Adults 18 and older have the option to pay $200 (month to month) instead.

Our Summer Camps are all $600 (5 days, 8 hours per day). In the Summer we also offer weekly Principles at Play and Essentials labs for half the price of a semester because there are only eight weeks.

We also have Saturday night activities for anyone (no enrollment required):

Saturday activities are always 6-9pm:

  1. C3 Field
  2. Game Night
  3. C3 Forum
  4. MineBlox

Content

The best way to understand what we do at SkilStak is to call or make an appointment to come talk about it personally. While online learning is valuable, we believe that learning happens best face-to-face, as it always has.

SkilStak is unique in that we are small enough to change instantly as new technology emerges and becomes validated by the industry. A year is like ten in tech time. This puts members in a privileged position to spot significant technology waves forming, paddle fast to prepare for them, and ride them out when they crest. This skill of knowing what to know is a top priority, above any specific tech that we learn together.

Principles at Play

Principles at Play is both a level and a focus designed for younger members who can type at least 10 words per minute. There is no age limit. We play coding and typing games together, learn to "hack" each other to make our computers talk, and spend a good chunk of time playing (that’s right playing) Minecraft and Roblox, two of the most educational games ever created. Inevitably kids who play these games go on to be server administrators and amazing coders. The emphasis is on fun in a non-intimidating way.

Essentials

Essentials is really the main SkilStak offering and foundation upon which everything else is built. It is also a level and focus (like Principles). It is for anyone who can type 24 words per minute but also both complimentary and more exhaustive than any AP Computer Science, roughly equating to a first semester computer science course if such courses where to offer programming in five modern languages and provide a hands-on exploration of computer components and the historical context and opportunities in computing and the Internet including a reflection on the important role and contributions of women in technology (Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper).

Completing the following modules earn the SkilStak Essentials Certificate allowing progression into Proficiency or application for Upskilling (members 18+ need not complete Essentials for Upskilling, but should consider completing the modules as a part of their plan).

The following modules earn the Coding Essentials certificate. These are real languages that are all actively sought for employment. Only the most up-to-date versions of any language is ever taught at SkilStak. You need not fear learning something that will become defunct (such as jQuery, pre-ES6 JavaScript, or Python 2).

These languages provide a unique and essential view of different coding concepts that only a polyglot approach can provide. It is simply impossible to learn coding in a single language. For example, loops kill JavaScript (asynchronous) but are encouraged in Python (synchronous, imperative); Node is JavaScript on the command line; Python does not have constants, JavaScript and Go do; Go is compiled and strictly typed, Python and JavaScript are not. Python has no switch statement, Go and JavaScript do.

One technologist (Jakob Borg) said it best when responding to the question “What should I do to create a portfolio as a junior programmer?”

Jakob Borg's Answer

We use modern professional editing tools and the Bash command line. We use Raspberry Pi and Arduino to introduce computer engineering, play around with basic networking, rip apart a computer to see its parts, learn to make some basic games, and login remotely to cloud servers using Secure Shell. At every moment security is explained in context. We also cover the history of computing and the Internet through short videos and discussion (including the important role women have played in the advent of computer science).

There is never any homework assigned, but working with code daily is strongly recommended.

Many opt to take Essentials more than once until the modules are completed.

Proficiency

Offerings at the Proficiency level provide deep-dives into the specific language or technology taking participants to employable levels of proficiency over one or more semesters.

Proficiency is where programming paradigms are introduced (object-oriented, functional). Python, Web, Go are the main languages and separated into their own, regular focus labs. (SkilStak avoids vendor-specific and aging languages as a matter of philosophy and policy.) Linux, Networking also always have regular focus labs.

The following are also rotated into the schedule or offered during the Summer:

Completing the work (modules) to receive a Proficiency certificate puts members in a solid position to obtain further professional certifications and apply for jobs in those specific areas of focus. For example, a member receiving a SkilStak Networking Proficiency certificate should easily pass the CCNA exam. While we have no official accreditation or association with any certification program, we do believe in preparing members for such be it their choice.

Upskilling

Upskilling is for those who want more control of their time and focus. It provides unlimited access to SkilStak and personalized mentoring to help create and follow an individual learning plan (IDP). Upskillers are divided into two different age groups, under 18 and 18 and up. Only 20 of each group (40 total) are accepted during a given month or semester:

  1. (>= 18) Adults who want to start a SkilStak learning experience
  2. (< 18) Semester members who have earned more

Upskilling is primarily for adults. It is a way to pay $200 for a single month and get unlimited access to mentoring, planning, learning, and resources of the community to get to the next level, usually employment opportunities. We meet adults wherever they are and help them take it to the next level, whatever that means for that individual.

Originally Upskilling was only for adults, but members under 18 who have exhibited the drive and maturity required for Upskilling are now also accepted by application. Those under 18 must have received their SkilStak Essentials Certificate and complete an interview and/or essay describing why Upskilling is for them. Those under 18 must enroll for a full semester of Upskilling ($800).

Because we give so much personalized attention to Upskillers we need them to be particularly committed, internally motivated, and responsible.

For example, perhaps an adult comes to us wanting to get more familiar with databases and SQL before pursuing the more complex skills related to the important field data science. Another might want to prepare for the Offensive Security Certified Professional exam. A SkilStak member under 18 might want to learn Haskell when no lab time is currently scheduled and is willing to put the time in during Upskill to learn it mostly on his own during the semester. Another might want to work on a micro-controller project in C integrating robotics and electronics with code. Another long-time member, who has received a Python Proficiency certificate, might want to dive deeper into AI with Tensor Flow. Upskilling is designed to meet these needs.

Upskillers enjoy a free pass to anything on the schedule (provided there is a seat) as well as Upskill specific times just for them. Upskillers are responsible for their own learning. SkilStak is here to help. It has not been unusual for an Upskiller to spend up to six hours at a time here at SkilStak completely immersing in his or her targeted learning goals.

Some have asked, "Do you have a mastery level?" First of all, it is important to understand a "master" to us is someone with about 10,000 hours doing the thing. This is not the same as other organizations or standards. So the answer is yes, Upskilling is where members can focus on attaining master level (although most will move on to other things and will have become completely proficient in independent learning at that point to attain that level on their own).

Field Trip

Special field trips to career fairs and tech conferences are also regularly scheduled for Upskillers. These events are always more fun as a group.

Community

The SkilStak community is second to none. It is the biggest reason to join. Our members do amazing things—including leading or starting coding programs in local schools. Parents of members (who also contribute to the community and provide network opportunities) include several technical recruiters, chief executives in fortune 100 companies, educators, home-schoolers, engineers, project managers, and more. SkilStak members become hard-wired to pay it forward, as they say.

Our facilitators have all had more than five years profession experience in the field providing mentoring as well as education. Their educational background comes primarily from experience but also from industry training, certifications, and having taught at local colleges.

To foster and support our community we share a private Discord Chat server where our community helps one another, laughs together, shares their trials, and generally comes together. We even have our own opinionated chat bot (and a Summer Camp to help you make your own).

Our multi-user cloud Linux system (skilstak.sh) is exactly like those found at better technical universities—where members can collaborate on development and hone their command-line skills from anywhere in the world. We use only top-grade public key cryptography to grant access. Those under 13 can also host their source code in git repos.

Command Line Essentials SkilBot

On GitHub, members 13 and older contribute to each other’s projects in addition to their own, for SkilStak, or for the greater open source community. GitHub is the community for technologists (with heavy recruitment happening there).

For fun and learning, SkilStak hosts a private Minecraft server for community members to maintain and support together. More than one amazing technologist started out with Minecraft.

Every Saturday night from 6-9pm, SkilStak hosts activities for our community and those outside who want to join in for the night. Some are educational, some are pure fun, all are casual and designed for members to have digital recess together.

Upskiller field trips provide a fun way to attend career and tech conferences together.

Members organize outreach activities for others in their local communities including schools, churches, scout troops, and others.

Join

Anyone can join our community at any time. There is something for everyone. Please call or email if you have questions. Once we have met and established your best starting point (Principles at Play, Essentials, or Upskill) you need only send an email with the following in it:

  1. Offering and Time
  2. Full Name
  3. Birthday
  4. Emergency Contact Phone
  5. Gmail Address
  6. Other Considerations

SkilStak will send you a PayPal invoice that you can pay however you wish, including checks and cash (which are noted in the invoice).

Prices will be prorated.

Availability of some offerings is limited based on space.

Nice Stuff About SkilStak

People have said some amazing, humbling, things about SkilStak over the years. Hopefully, if you haven’t heard about SkilStak yourself from a friend already these can help.

“Mur and I really, really believe in what Skilstak is about and what you are doing and have done for dozens of young boys and girls. Beyond the coding and the career preparation, Skilstak provides a ‘place‘ for them and gives them the courage to wear their nerd badges proudly. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the impact of Skilstak will last throughout their lives regardless of the trajectory each takes.” Mary Muchane

We Love Nerds!

“My son attended the Minecraft camp today and is hooked! He is registered for a coding class now every week! He just keeps thanking us for finding this ‘cool’ place! I highly recommend for kids who love technology and want to learn more!” Jennifer Miller

“I have enjoyed my time leaning at Skilstak! My favorite thing is that we are always changing and learning the newest available material for web development. Most of my girl friends don't like to talk about code, but it is because they don't understand it. I have found other coding girls at Skilstak , I enjoy figuring out assignments together with them and also working at my own pace.” Bella T

Minecraft Tea

“Rob does a fantastic job of engaging and teaching the kids without them even knowing they‘re learning. :) We’ll be repeat customers every time my grandson comes for a visit!” Joni Dunn

“My son has been attending SkilStak for almost four years now. He started out in Code and Play and has progressed to Pro, gaining invaluable coding skills and knowledge every step of the way! In addition to classes, he has served as a TA or teacher’s assistant and aspires to be an instructor as his part-time job during his high school years. He has not only learned several coding languages, but has acquired a valuable work ethic and sense of community and active citizenship. I have no doubt, that he truly has discovered his lifelong passion and career path while attending classes at SkilStak. I am extremely grateful to Rob for providing my son with his incredible coding abilities and life skills, and more importantly, for serving as a mentor and positive male role model to an impressionable teenager! I would wholeheartedly recommend the SkilStak program as an extracurricular activity to any future coders and their parents!” Dena Miller

On a Personal Note

I started SkilStak when the need became so pronounced to me that such a thing was needed, that real, hands-on tech education focused on actual skills of the workplace simply didn’t exist. My sons and scouts would often ask, “Mr. Rob, teach us to code, teach us to build a computer, teach us to hack!”

Nothing was available in 2013. Rather than complain about how bad things were, I decided to do something about it. I took some retirement out early to give it a shot. We have been at it ever since. It‘s definitely been bumpy along the path. Lots of mistakes, lots of learning. It would be easy to go back to a cushy corporate tech job, but I have no doubts or regrets this has been the right thing to do.

We have explored many possibilities and recommendations over the years, including opening new locations, moving to a "better" location, franchising, and "vending" our services to other organizations. We’ve concluded the best option is to stay small and attract others to us, to help others learn and let them go out and influence others, in whatever role. This has been our best decision. To stay small, personal, and train others to share in their own way. Perhaps we can help you.

Since 2013 many more computer science clubs, programs—even companies—have surfaced and it has been great to watch. I’m very proud to say that many were directly influenced by SkilStak members and parents.

As we now begin to work more with adults as well looking to Upskill the sky is the limit. Who knows, maybe more will lift where they stand as we literally save the world with better opportunities and communities all around.

To the many who have made SkilStak a reality (my wife and family in particular)—and to the many more to come—I thank you.

Mr. Rob Gnome