It’s been nearly two weeks since I volunteered my time at this year’s GR Give Camp and this post has been long time in coming. I’d say it’s about time for some reflections.

Background

For those of you who don’t know what Give Camp is, it can be summed up in the following few points (using this years numbers):

  • 18 non profits.
  • A room full of tech geeks.
  • 1 weekend.
  • Expertise of tech geeks ranging from Drupal and Wordpress to .NET and Ruby on Rails.
  • Those tech geeks providing technical know-how to non-profits in direct relation to problem.
  • Solutions to problem created, designed, and implemented by end of weekend.
  • Reflections

Project

I, personally, had the joy of working with the non-profits from the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (GRCYC or CYC) on a Ruby on Rails “Progress Tool” project.

The project itself was to act as a kiosk sort of sign in for the students and volunteers so CYC could track hours students and volunteers invested in the non-profit. Furthermore, this tool can track the progress of students through the particular programs offered through the CYC, such as Writing Workshops and tutoring. And lastly, a reporting tool that has basic stats in a one-stop report page with links to get a more detailed report of the program or student. These report pages also reports basic demographic information.

Team

I had the privilege to work with some of the genius’ over at CQL along with Josh (@shekibobo). In terms of brainaics, we had no short supply of brain power, great ideas, and quick production.

Even though our CQl counterparts had no previous ruby on rails experience, by the end of the weekend and the result of the project would make you scratch your head and ask, “Really? They had no prior ruby experience?”

The Weekend

While GR Give Camp is Friday night to Sunday afternoon, I was only able to attend Friday night through Saturday evening. Even though I had a shorter weekend than the event intended, it was still a very enjoyable experience.

Arriving on Friday - I was totally baffled on where to park. I had looked at the map of GR parking, but with the event going on in the arena and not even sure where The Factory was located I finally just parked in a garage kiddie corner to the intersection my GPS was saying The Factory was. It may have just been me, but I’m not totally familiar with downtown GR area so trying to find my way around, even with the GR Give Camp signs hanging around San Chez, it took me until I recognized someone from BarCamp GR to find the location. Perhaps a “Recommended Parking” would be helpful for next time!

Friday evening we were blessed with an AMAZING spread of food, drink, and beer (At least in the CQL room). I was able to visit with some awesome friends and meet some new awesome friends. On the other hand, we were not particularly blessed with a good internet connection - however, that made it easier to walk around and get to know everyone, get our computers setup for RoR, and eat some really good food.

Saturday, I rolled in around 11:30AM and got right down to business programming. Myself and Eric were able to work on the reporting tool that polls the database for student and volunteer information based on check ins. Furthermore, we were able to pull neighborhood and basic demographic information that non-profits need to help get funding. Along with Subway, soda, beer, and Italian food throughout the day, it was a perfect work environment.

Location

GiveCamp was hosted by The Factory of Grand Rapids. The venue was probably perfect - if I only knew where to park! A lot of work space, central location, and in the heart of GR. For those of you who are looking for a place to work in peace on your new ventures, The Factory is a GREAT place to do that.

Conclusions

I loved my experience at GiveCamp. After spending years doing mission and service work (physical) with my church and college around the US, it was an awesome change of pace to be able to offer my technological services to non-profits right here in GR. I love the community here in Grand Rapids. Up until Give Camp, I was actually considering moving out of Grand Rapids to pursue a career elsewhere. Now? Well, I’ve discovered how closely connected I am to people here in Grand Rapids and how great of a community I already have.

I’ve discovered that I’m not ACTUALLY sick of Ruby or Ruby on Rails… just the type of work I have been doing with it. So here’s to a fresh idea and a fresh start. Mind in the making.

THANK YOU, GR GiveCamp for an awesome experience!