By teaching himself to code, 17 year old Nick was able to build and launch his own browser extension, Greenhouse
17 year old Nick joined Treehouse with the aspiration of developing apps, building websites, and starting his own business. After teaching himself to code with Treehouse, Nick was able to build and launch Greenhouse, a free browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox that exposes the role money plays in Congress and highlights key election races.
Although still only a junior in high school, Greenhouse gave Nick the opportunity to have an impact on the issue of money-in-politics, something which he is passionate about. Today, Nick continues to learn with Treehouse, expand Greenhouse in his free time, and based on his recent experience and his newly acquired skills, hopes to work towards a job in tech in the future.
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What first drew you to the web industry?
I had been using computers and spending time on the internet for a while before I actually got into programming. I’ve always been a creative kid who loved building things, tinkering with legos and erector sets in my free time. Instead of simply browsing other people’s websites every day, I wanted to create one myself. So, I started working on a portfolio, and have loved it ever since.
What work were you doing when you first joined Treehouse & what encouraged you to learn with us?
When I first joined Treehouse, I only had the beginnings of a portfolio developed. I had always dreamed about developing iPhone apps, working on dynamic websites, and even starting my own startup someday, so I really wanted to work towards these goals. Treehouse helped me do just that by making learning fun, easy, and engaging.
Computer science and a Treehouse education is incredibly empowering. These days, the internet is an incredible driving force for change, and knowing how to manipulate that tool is incredibly beneficial.
Tell us about your fantastic project, Greenhouse.
Back in a 7th grade social studies class, I was assigned a presentation on the issue of money-in-politics, and I’ve been interested ever since. It isn’t usually an issue that kids my age care about, but I wanted to change that. I thought that one problem was that the information about sources of funding of members of Congress wasn’t being made easily accessible to citizens when they needed it, so, using Treehouse, I taught myself how to code and created Greenhouse to put that data where it’s most relevant. It's a free browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox that works by highlighting the names of members of Congress on any web page. You hover your mouse over those names, and a pop-up box appears that lists their total contributions, small donor contributions, top-10 industry donors, and a little badge indicating whether that member supports campaign finance reform. It’s simple, and it really puts this fundamental information at people’s fingertips, where it’s most useful and relevant, rather than burying it away on some website.
What has the value of a Treehouse education meant to you?
Computer science and a Treehouse education is incredibly empowering. These days, the internet is an incredible driving force for change, and knowing how to manipulate that tool is incredibly beneficial. If someone creates something interesting, word of it will spread like wildfire across social networks and the like. It enables everyone, even a 17-year-old who isn’t old enough to vote, to have an impact on issues that would normally be out of one’s reach, like corruption.
What does the future hold for you and for Greenhouse?
Even though I’m kept pretty busy with school and homework, I still dedicate a lot of time to Greenhouse. Every day, I spend an hour or so responding to emails, hopping on phone calls, and working on updates. Because it’s for an issue that I’m passionate about, I’m excited to continue working on and expanding the tool to get it in as many hands as possible. While I’m only a junior in high school, and haven’t given a ton of thought to these these things, working on a project like Greenhouse and seeing the feedback it received was a great experience, and I would love to work in tech, on similar projects, in the future.
What advice would you share with new students who are aspiring web designers and developers?
Programming and trying to teach yourself may seem like daunting tasks at first. However, it’s really just a matter of persistence and dedication. With the proper tools, like Treehouse, it’s much easier than it seems. If you can spend 30 minutes after school every day working on a new language, you’ll be able to build cool things in no time. Furthermore, take advantage of events. Tons of hackathons all over the country will not only pay for travel, but the communities are incredibly welcoming to beginners, regardless of skill level. You’ll end up learning a ton and having fun no matter what.