How to Hack a Development Environment and Teach High Schoolers to Code

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This post was written by Tristan Siegel, a Ruby Instructor at Flatiron School. In just a few weeks, he developed a way to turn $200 Chromebooks into ready-to-code programming machines. Read Tristan’s original blog post on the experience right here.

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We designed Flatiron After School to teach high schoolers the same skills professional developers use every day. A big part of this is getting our students really comfortable navigating a real programming environment—using software that any developer would use. But how can we make sure all of our students have access to the same technology when some of them don’t have access to or just can’t afford a laptop?

Any student in our course who needs one can use an Acer C720 series Chromebook for free throughout the semester. We’ve hacked them into ready-to-code programming machines with an Ubuntu install script based on an awesome one developed by Codestarter.

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Our script automatically installs everything students need to start learning to program, including Linux, Ruby, Git, Sublime, Postgres, and decked out Bashrc for the command line—absolutely no kids stuff. Best of all, it turns a $200 Chromebook into just as good a way for beginners to learn to code as a $1,300 MacBook.

The script is Open Source. We know from seeing so many people learn that, with a good teacher and a lot of determination, anyone can be a programmer. Hopefully, this software will help people learn how to code, even if they don’t know where to start or can’t afford an expensive laptop. To give it a spin, fork our Repo!

We hope our custom Chromebooks will help high schoolers understand what becomes possible when they learn to code—that a computer isn’t just a way to consume media. It’s a tool to help them express their own passions and creativity. Know a high schooler who’d love to code with us? Learn more or enroll now at

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