Student Animates Algorithm & Data Structure Key Concepts

As someone who taught himself a wide range of programming concepts using online materials, student Andrew Smith knows the power of illustrating key concepts with a visualization. He also knows that truly successful visualizations are often few and far between. That’s why he has embarked on a project to create strong learning tools for programming students.

“The basic mission statement is to build high quality learning tools centered on data structures and algorithms,” Smith explains.

interactive visualizations, educational materials, coding, d3

Andrew Smith has embarked on a project to visualize key concepts of algorithms and data structures.

The inspiration for this project came from a frustration with available resources, and a sense that design can always be improved upon.

“I really like to use visualizations to both get a grasp of a concept and recreate my understanding later,” he notes. While a visualization might not explain every detail of a data structure or algorithm, it can illustrate the principles involved, and allow the coder to both learn the concept the first time, and draw on this conceptual framework later in a way that makes filling in the details easy and straightforward.

Smith’s iterative process of finding a good design is displayed in a blog post he wrote about pausing JavaScript for animation--a challenge he encountered while building visualizations for bubble sort and quicksort. In the post, Smith makes four attempts at this challenge, each more successful than the last. While he arrives at a solution that he likes, one gets the sense that Smith is forever looking to improve on his designs.

“A lof the work I do in terms of refactoring is motivated by the belief that it should be possible to do this in a more elegant fashion,” he explains. “I enjoy the process of figuring out what that is.”

At Hack Reactor, Smith has found that the community of like-minded thinkers has allowed him to take his project to the next level.

Hack Reactor provides “the opportunity to work in groups with really intelligent, inspired, motivated people,” he observes. His work in concept visualization “has already turned into a bonafide project. We have a mission statement, we’ve talked about our personal goals, and we’re setting up scaffolding to support our collaboration.”

By developing group-work skills, our course teaches students to generate and value the powerful synergy that can come from a strong dynamic.

"Programming in groups is an entirely different experience, requiring unique skills and knowledge and it's hard to simulate through online courses or self-driven learning," Smith observes. "Hack Reactor adds huge value by having its students collaborating constantly, training them to be effective members of a team."

Want to join a thriving community of thoughtful, energetic learners and builders? Apply to our program, online or onsite, today!

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