Harnessing Nanodegree Power To Solve World Problems!

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If that sounds like a lofty title for a blog post, it’s not. It’s based on a very real story, about a very real group of people, who are trying to do very real good in the world. If you’ve not yet heard of them, then it is my very real pleasure to introduce you to Hacksmiths!

What is Hacksmiths? Hacksmiths is actually a “who,” and here’s how they describe themselves:

The Hacksmiths are a group of software professionals working collaboratively in a virtual environment in an effort to solve real world problems through the development of software.

There is a little more to this description than first meets the eye. This “group of software professionals” actually shares a common connection which at first may not be obvious, but is revealed in a recent blog post on the Hacksmiths.io site:

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It Was A Very Good Year: Udacity in 2015

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“It was a very good year.”
~Frank Sinatra

365 days. 12 months. 1 year. It shouldn’t feel so long ago, but somehow January of 2015 seems about as far away as Y2K. Was it really just the beginning of this year we were blowing  your minds with data visualizations, and debating the merits of Python vs. R? And was it honestly just a mere two weeks after this year’s Valentine’s Day that we announced that all Georgia Tech OMSCS courses would be free going forward? Hard to believe, particularly in light of all the exciting news we’ve just had about GT’s first online graduates, but it’s true! How time flies…

Looking back at the year behind us, it’s hard to believe everything that’s been accomplished. Our students together comprise an incredible force for learning, and their dedication and commitment levels are other-worldly. Did you know, that if you add up all the hours that students together have dedicated to learning with Udacity, the total is over 450 years??? It’s true! Check our special Year-End Infographic if you don’t believe me!

Numbers like that are pretty staggering. One’s eyes almost glaze over thinking about it. When I get that feeling, it really helps to think about the students behind the numbers. The individual accomplishments just keep coming, and they’re all so special. As but one example, consider March of 2015.

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[Infographic] A Year of Udacity Achievements and Milestones!

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When you’ve enjoyed a year like we have—front-and-center for so many incredible student successes—it’s almost impossible to explain the feelings of achievement, let alone quantify the accomplishments. But we’ve done our very best to try and capture some of the remarkable highlights, and we’re excited to share our new infographic with you!

When we were beginning the process of assembling the numbers contained in this infographic, we knew a few things ahead of time, of course. But that didn’t make some of the realizations any less dramatic or moving. That we are now reaching students in 168 countries was certainly a known thing, yet … wow! 168 countries! This is so humbling and exciting both, and we’ve only just begun.

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Udacity Android Developers Attend Google Career Summit!

Google Career Summit, photo by Caleb Whang
Google Career Summit, photo by Caleb Whang

Google has a long history of nurturing new talent, and our partnership with them has taken on additional resonance as we’ve watched our students directly benefit from this relationship. Most recently, Google’s Career Summit proved to be an extraordinary example of this process in action.

Whether you’re an experienced or aspiring developer, you’ve probably dreamed of hearing seasoned engineers and tech stars gush over your creations, and you may have even envisioned yourself strolling through the doors of one of the world’s most prominent tech companies like royalty.

Going To Google HQ

Last month Udacity and Google made all these dreams and more come true for fifty of our Android Developer Nanodegree program students. These students—with varying backgrounds, and from all over North America—came together for four days at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View for an event dedicated to careers, student success, and Android development.

Their stories were incredible. Some were lifelong developers, while others were pretty new to coding. They were technology directors, mechanical engineers, college students, and high school teachers. Each had a unique perspective to share with their peers, as well as Udacity and Google employees.

Our student attendees spent the first few days absorbing career advice and enjoying gifts from Google employees. There was everything from life guidance to specific critiques relevant to getting Android jobs at Google. They even had the opportunity to meet with Google employees in small groups to discuss interview strategies.

The Hackathon!

The most unforgettable part of the experience was the hackathon. It was magical to see students apply what they learned in a Udacity Nanodegree program and it was even more incredible to see how everyone came together to (very quickly) concoct a mesmeric and unique Android app.

In less than 72 hours the apps were ready to present, and they amazed everyone in the audience. There was everything from interfaces beautiful and clean enough to be in the Play Store to apps crafted with complex APIs and data storage designs.

“Social Good” was the hackathon’s theme, and students all had their own ideas about what that meant to them. There was an app for keeping track of vaccines, one for helping new immigrants find necessary resources in their communities, and another to help the unemployed get back on their feet. Several of the apps took to heart the idea of social pressure as a force for good. In one app you got points for attending charity events, and in another you could be granted “good karma” for performing kind deeds. These points could be shared and used to encourage your friends and neighbors to carry out their own acts of kindness.

The “most technical app,” as selected by the judges (including our own Sebastian Thrun!), integrates a number of APIs to create an app to help the blind define their surroundings. It scans images of the user’s environment and reads out loud what is in those images, and uses the same technology to read out the contents of album photos. It also shakes to warn the user when he or she is too close to walking into an object.

Advancing Careers & Getting Hired!

All in all, students and employees learned magnitudes from each other. Students learned how to collaborate and build quickly, applying what they had learned in the classroom in a whole new way. They learned how to advance their careers. (We just heard that one of our Summit students got an offer at Amazon!) And perhaps best of all, the hackathon groups vowed to keep in touch and discussed plans for launching their apps on the Google Play Store.

On behalf of all of us at Udacity, I’d like to say thank you to Google for providing lots of time and resources to make this event so incredible. And thank you to our amazing students who’ve been working so incredibly hard! The students who attended the Summit definitely earned it, and we can’t wait to plan similar events and reward even more students in the future!

More Apps Our Students are Launching

It’s Day Four of #6DaysOfiOS, and we’re giving away six Apple devices: two iPhone 6s, an Apple TV, an Apple Watch Sport, an iPad, and a Macbook Air! If you enroll in a free trial of the Beginning iOS App Development Nanodegree program between October 13th at 12pm ET and October 26th at 12pm ET you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win!

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The projects you build are at the heart of your Nanodegree program experience, and there is no clearer evidence of the skills you’ve mastered than the tangible work you produce. This is why we’re always especially thrilled to highlight amazing apps build by our amazing students! Back in August, we highlighted new work from three Udacity Nanodegree program graduates: Linda, Paul and Spiros. Today we introduce iOS Developer Nanodegree program graduates Raphael, Ryan and Umar, each of whom has created an awesome new app that we highlight below! We’ll tell you about what they built and how they built it, and we also encourage you to check out Student Swift Blogs, where you can really dive deep into some clever, candid, and seriously educational stories from our students who are programming in Swift.

And with that, meet Raphael!

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