My name is Paul Culmsee and I have a story for you...
Once upon a time, a tweet was put out by Microsoft's Audrie Gordon, where she challenged the Power Users community to produce a fidget spinner in PowerApps.
As it happened, I had been teaching PowerApps to my 18 year-old daughter, Ashlee, for a couple of weeks prior to this. Now, Ash had always been good at mathematics and it was her favourite subject at school. However, until I started training her, she'd never coded anything in her life and never showed any interest in this area. In fact her real interest is Psychology, which she is currently in her first year of university studying.
So why would a 18 year-old psychology student learn PowerApps? Simple... like many undergraduates, she needs to find work and recognised that she needed to add some skills to her CV that might give her an edge. Why did I think PowerApps was an ideal tool for her to learn? Well, being a biased dad, I always suspected that she had a mind for coding so I felt she could be good at it. Plus as we all know, PowerApps is awesome and the demand for skills is only going to grow.
In saying this, even I underestimated her progress. To put it bluntly, her speed at picking up PowerApps, Flow and even things like custom data connections has been nothing short of phenomenal. To illustrate, you can check out this video to see an example of her work, which we will hopefully cover in more detail on this blog.
But with this new challenge, I had absolutely no idea how to do it myself, so I was of no help to her.
It was around 10pm my time (GMT+8) when I showed Audrie’s tweet to Ashlee, who took a look at the video and promptly announced “I can do it better…”
So the challenge was on, and Ashlee spent the next 90 minutes writing her basic solution. As a parent and IT professional it was fun to watch as she went through the typical trials and tribulations of developing a solution, except I was hearing it through someone who a) was only 18 and b) had never coded before and did not know the terminology. I wish I had recorded the audio to be honest
Then came the breakthrough moment, where she danced a little “I am awesome” jig like real developers are prone to do when their solution finally works. She got the base concept working, which I tweeted out so she could claims dibs on the prize. But Ash was not done, and spent an additional couple of hours making the fidget spinner look authentic in pretty pink as shown in the animated GIF below…
By this time it was close to 1am, so she tweeted her solution and went to bed. Next morning we were pleasantly surprised. She won the contest!
But that was not all, she impressed not only the community but various Microsoft people including Darshan Desai – Group Program Manager for PowerApps who commented that not many in the PowerApps team could have come up with the solution….
So inspired by the positive feedback, Ashlee and I recorded a video yesterday where she took me through the solution step-by-step. If you want to learn some neat PowerApps tricks, brush up on your trigonometry and watch my awful math get exposed then this video is for you!
Finally, just to prove I am not just a biased dad, here is a sample of the feedback she received from the community - wonderful stuff!
I truly feel the PowerApps team should also be proud that a teenager was able to build an app on their platform so quickly. In fact, many kids could benefit from learning PowerApps and perhaps Microsoft should look at its utility in schools. It could be combined with ideas from Design Thinking to teach kids collaboration and innovation, all the while providing them a way to rapidly produce a tangible output.