Arkansas Coding Academy hosts annual Demo Day

The Arkansas Coding Academy (ArCA) at the University of Central Arkansas held its annual Demo Day on Dec. 8. Thirteen of the 15 graduates showcased websites they built during the six-month accelerated program. 

“We teach everything from how to make a website look presentable on the front-end to the business logic running behind the scenes,” said Alison Wish, director of ArCA. “Their projects all include a ‘CRUD’ application, which means they will create a record, be able to read it, update and delete it.” 

Now in its sixth year, ArCA has had graduates from every congressional district in Arkansas and boasts an impressive job placement rate for people who have gone through the program. 

Wish said many of the students enter the program with no coding experience, but they leave with technical aptitude, perseverance and the ability to apply their newly learned skills.

“There is so much talent in this room,” Wish said. “They’ve spent countless hours learning to code, and these last few weeks, they have been planning, designing and building their capstone projects. Most of them have worked full-time while doing so. This is no small feat.” 

This year’s cohort had a record number of women, including Shelby Borel, who heard from a friend how impressive the program was. 

“I was trying to teach myself,” Borel said. “But it is much easier to have someone with that experience to tell you what you’re doing. That’s why I got interested.” 

Borel’s website is a menu generator. As a stay-at-home wife and mother, Borel said it sometimes became challenging to come up with ideas for dinner every night.

“It’s called MealCraft,” Borel said. “There is a search menu, but if you don’t want to pick anything, you can click a button, and it automatically generates a menu for the week, including recipes.”

Dalton Hill’s website also helps him streamline personal tasks. He is a salesman who goes to car lots and body shops to sell his product. 

“The number one question people ask me is ‘What do you have?’ Well, now I have a site I can send them to that shows what I can offer. I can upload products, change products and make it easy for the customer to see a warranty and how it is manufactured,” Hill said. 

Hill found himself researching coding and web designs when confined to a bed recovering from an accident. 

“I signed up for the full-stack program. It showed me, from start to finish, how to build a website. It put a fire in me. I started with little to no information, and now I’ve built this app that is fully functional,” Hill said. 

“We have just scratched the surface on the potential of this program and its natural relationship and complementary aspects to everything we do here at UCA,” said UCA President Houston Davis. “One reason we love to have this celebration of our graduates is to make sure there is no mystery about the talent. We want our best students coming out of the Arkansas Coding Academy to make certain to connect with the best in the field. We are very excited about the momentum that ArCA has as we look toward the future”

Davis said the university has formally made ArCA a part of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “That really speaks to how the coding academy has matured and become a complementary piece to a lot of the academic programs here at UCA.” 


Photos by Madison Ogle