Coding (And Teaching) Runs in the Family

NetApp VP’s Teenage Son Runs Coding Training Course for Peers

By Brett Colbert, NetApp VP, Information Technology


I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that as a VP at a major technology company, I understand the importance of coding – and of training the next generation to spark continued innovation and progress. And I’m proud to say that my son has not only developed a similar passion, he has taken it to a whole new level.


Max is 13 years old, and like many kids his age he’s curious about technology. About a year and a half ago he got his first iPhone (a hand-me-down from dad) and started the process of understanding how it worked. His curiosity peaked when he started looking at iPhone apps and wanted to know how they were designed and made. Max's friend Matt Dillabough and both of their younger brothers (William Colbert and John Dillabough, age 11) also wanted to know how apps were built, so I started teaching them how to write apps on the weekends. All of them picked up programming quickly, built apps, and submitted them to the Apple App Store. Many of the apps are popular – one of Max's apps has been downloaded by more than 112,000 people.


But it didn’t stop there. Many of Max and Matt's friends wanted to learn how to program, so Max and Matt founded the Menlo App Academy to help their peers learn about technology. The Menlo App Academy, taught by Max and Matt with help from their younger brothers, teaches boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 18 how to program mobile apps.


The classes are always fully enrolled and there is huge demand from kids and parents. Our schools struggle to provide this type of teaching because class time is limited and schools mainly seem to be focused on getting the students to do well on the STAR test – so programming unfortunately isn't seen as a priority. It's amazing to think that we live in the heart of Silicon Valley and yet, in some cases, our kids learn very little about technology and have limited hands-on experience with technology in their schools!


As it turns out, kids like to learn from other kids, and there is a positive connection between teacher and student when they can relate. We’ve  heard comments from the students such as "Max and Matt are great teachers – they are like our friends but they know how to code!"


The most exciting aspect of the Menlo App Academy is enabling kids to make something based on their own creativity. They select a concept, do the research, and then create the content, images, and interface. They are developing apps, and they are also developing critical skills for a successful career. 


I’m proud to say that not only is the Menlo App Academy an inspiration that our next generation has what it takes to continue pushing the limits of technology, it’s also proven a great way to balance the kids’ needs for having fun and playing games with the development of skills and knowledge that will allow them to compete – and thrive – in tomorrow’s marketplace.


This is a very inspiring story, and it's great to see the next generation continue the innovative culture of Silicon Valley forward!

Great story!!!

Good write-up.  This will inspire parents to get their kids to get involve in technology aside from playing games.