Half a thousand people get up from their seats. They clap and cheer. They raise their computers as if they were trophies while in the background the song of Queen sounds "We are the champions". They are in the auditorium of La Nave, in Madrid, and have just beaten the first Guinness Record in the technological field in Spain: they have participated in the software class with the most students in the world.
Last Friday, just half an hour before breaking the record, attendees listened to Anna Oxford, official judge of the Guinness Book of Records, Explain the rules: "During this half hour if someone goes to the bathroom, is on WhatsApp or Facebook or falls asleep, you can not participate in the record. It takes 500 people. " This record has never been beaten before.
Some already know how to program and for others this massive class is the first contact
Attendees include people of virtually all ages with computers, tablets and smartphones. Some already know how to program and for others, this massive class is the first contact. "I'm an economist and I've always wanted to learn programming," says Jorge Salayero, 31. He is sitting next to Mónica de Andrés, a 41-year-old software consultant, who has learned about the class through social networks and has decided to attend because "this is a very turbulent environment and you always have to recycle."
There are also children who come with their parents. For example, Noelia García Vicente, 13, who already knows different languages and is clear that in the future "everything will be related to the Internet and knowing how to program is going to be a great advantage". In the same line Azriel Vázquez, of 11 years, says that "programming is useful for applications". In fact, he is creating his own app next to a programmer and his father. "It is important that you have notions of programming because it is the future. It is not so much for the profession but so that you can create your own businesses. It is as useful as English, "says his father, Víctor Vázquez, 44 years old.
The first line of code
The initiative has been led by KeepCoding, a high-performance training center in programming and the class has been designed so that anyone, even if it is lost, can return to resume it. The objective is that the students know a tool called Jupyter and write their first line of code.
Ramón Maldonado, director of the bootcamp Learn to program from scratch, It's the teacher. Your computer is connected to a projector and all attendees follow the class paying attention to a giant screen. "Jupyter is a product that data scientists use to exchange information. We're going to use python 3, "he states as he registers.
The Jupyter Lab tool is a technology that eliminates one of the great difficulties that every beginner has: configuring programming tools. The only thing that is needed to access is a browser. The language they use in the class, Phyton, has "a very low entry barrier". So says Fernando Rodríguez, CLO of KeepCoding: "It is being used to teach programming at MIT and in some of the best universities in the US".
According to data from the European Commission, 40% of companies have difficulties to hire ICT experts and by 2020 there will be half a million jobs of specialists in this sector without coverage. "More than an employment crisis is a crisis of ability," says Adriana Botelho, CEO of KeepCoding and organizer of Guinness. To solve this problem, KeepCoding has started the movement Accelerates Spain. The objective is to "reconvert the paradigm of employability at the national level, promoting technological talent to face the growing demand for uncovered employment in the ICT sector". For this, they offer 10,000 scholarships to learn to program aimed at people without any previous experience.
Fernando Rodríguez, helped several companies in Silicon Valley to create mobile development teams. "Interviewing the candidates, I realized that in Spain we have better programmers than in Silicon Valley. The difference is that they are in the right place and they speak the right language. But we have talent and that is fundamental for the creation of technology to become an essential component of our GDP. It does not have to be just tourism or restoration, "says CLO of KeepCoding.
The assistants try to follow the instructions of Maldonado. Some enter without problem, but others do not get it because the servers do not have the capacity to support so many users at the same time. "Everyone is already in the notebook? "Asks the professor. Among the public there is no unanimous answer. Maldonado asks them to help each other or, in the worst case, share devices.
Then he explains little by little each step he takes in the program. He even teaches how to put a hashtag or where the Enter button is, "in case there are any of those mothers who have not touched a computer in their life". He asks them to write in different cells some phrases like "# Let's beat a record", "# # My first program" or "print ('Hello, world')". "The programs use data. 'Hello, world' is a fact. And the texts always put them in quotation marks, "he says before the attentive look of the students. Practically every programmer has done the exercise "Hello, world" at least once in his life.
Several volunteers walk through the corridors of the auditorium. Are those who are responsible for counting the number of people who are following the class. One of them is José María Moreno, a retired 58-year-old economist who usually volunteers with children whom he teaches to program by blocks. "This has got me much older. It's amazing what young people do. I have an 11-year-old nephew who gives me 100 laps, "he says while observing the students in his area.
During the class, students have created their first notebook and have learned what variables are and how to create text cells, edit them and delete them. Some continue to do the exercises when the lesson is over. Others, like Azriel Vázquez, have had no problem getting it. He found it "fun and easy". "I was lost, he was not and I was explaining it to him," says his father. Salayero and De Andrés are also happy with the class. "I liked it. I have wanted to continue, "says the software consultant.
The judge and some organizers retire to deliberate if she has broken the record. Meanwhile, KeepCoding's CLO states that the tool they have used is normally used to make interactive books, explore data and teach programming. "If someone is interested in what they have done, they can continue learning." This is like learning to play a musical instrument or riding a bicycle, it does not matter all the theory that they tell you and that they force you to follow some exercises or do all the exercises that we are going to propose or you will not be able to go out to the working market. There is a lot of individual practice, "he says.
Shortly after, Anna Oxford returns and takes the stage. "At first you were 625 people, but we had to discount a lot of people for using WhatsApp, going to the bathroom or other reasons. Finally, 585 people participated in the class, "says the judge. As soon as you hear that phrase, people burst with emotion and the celebration begins.