Southington couple opens coding school in Cheshire

CHESHIRE — The uses and the sophistication of computers have both changed enormously since Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie published their seminal book on writing code, “The C Computing Language,” back in 1978.

Today, we can use code-based applications to monitor sleep patterns and count calories. We can watch videos produced by top filmmakers or random pranksters, promote businesses, invest and invent money, play games, even write and read newspaper articles. Software powers everything from satellites to kitchen appliances to wastewater treatment plants.

As Vaishali Shah puts it, “Everything is driven by computers — email, software, text messages — and with the growth of artificial intelligence systems, the future will be more dependent on coding than ever.”

She and her husband Chirayu Shah have now brought students in Cheshire the option of personalized learning in the art and science of writing code, at the aptly named The Coder School, now open in the Watch Factory Shoppes.

Per The Coder School’s main website, there are now over 50 locations open across the country, and each is independently owned and operated. After opening locations in Farmington in 2018 and Glastonbury in 2019, the Shahs, who make their home in Southington, decided Cheshire would make a great third location. A grand opening took place on Dec. 17 and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 19 at noon.

The response so far, Vaishali says, has been great and demand for classes strong.

Her record of success in launching and running the prior two Coder School locations, in Farmington and Glastonbury, won her recognition in Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” feature for 2022. Although she admits that she’s learning more about the business side of things as she goes, Vaishali truly believes in the importance of her work and what it can do for students.

The Shahs, who met during their college days at UConn, were looking into options in tech instruction for their own young son when they came across The Coder School. To be considered for a franchise, the Shahs traveled to San Francisco to meet with the CEO and learn more about the potential. What they learned during that meeting and in the time since, has them convinced of the importance of the skills taught at The Coder School, and that the instruction model works.

“Coding will just be like — if it is not already — knowing how to read, write, and do math. Just as those subjects are taught in school, coding should be as well,” Vaishali stated. “It is a skill that everyone will need to know the basics of.”

Vaishali’s career started in the field of radiation therapy and although she has pivoted to business administration, coded software also powers the technology in that medical field.

Chirayu is a Project Operations Manager who works with one of ESPN’s main apps, ESPN+. Although he didn’t write the code for the app, he sees first-hand how coding technology is used to enhance the customer experience for the product.

Each school has a staff of between six and eight instructors, “who will make recommendations based on age. A 7-year-old starting with C++ is likely not going to happen, so you have to keep it realistic,” explained Chirayu, who also points out that the instructors can be flexible with lessons. “If a student looks confused or something, we’re going to adjust.”

The languages available include Scratch, a graphics language developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that offers a good starting point for beginners. Other available options include such key languages as Javascript and Python.

Lessons take place for an hour per week, and can be either semi-private or in a classroom setting, but The Coder School’s preferred ratio is two students to an instructor.

Students and parents can track their progress through the use of assessments.

Chirayu sees coding as an important basis for education, even if a student doesn’t end up in a computer science profession. “The way we look at it is, even when you don’t end up making a living from it or actively using it, having a baseline understanding of coding is a big part of the modern economy and it’s something employers are looking for,” he said.

Vaishali is even more blunt in her assessment of why coding matters. “Coding is the essential skill for the future.”


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