Life in South Bend, a Rust Belt city on the move.


Life in South Bend, a Rust Belt city on the move.


Rust Belt Teens Build AR Sandbox


Since starting to make photos and videos with South Bend Code School I’ve often been asked 1) what is coding? and 2) why does it matter? My response is a jumble of words including html, websites, and databases all centering one idea — code empowers people to build their imagination.

Last week I watched this central idea come to life. On Monday evenings our space is host to Code Legion, a group of 20+ students who have graduated from our web development course and want to keep going. These #KidsWhoCode continue learning coding fundamentals and take on web development clients (for real!) but this night was special — we were going to finish programming our custom Augmented Reality Sandbox.

Maybe you’ve seen an AR Sandbox before — most students first interact with one that is a finished, functional product akin to any other scientific tool found in a school. These ($7,000) sandboxes are marketed as an interactive “learning tool for earth science” and topography. The difference at Code Legion is when you throw coding into the mix, an AR Sandbox becomes a tool for kids to learn more: topography and programming. Our students programmed and calibrated the sandbox from start to finish.

…it’s a 3D sensor and it shoots a spread of IR beams
— Shaun Whitfield, Instructor

We spend a lot of time demonstrating to students that computers do exactly what you tell them to do. Building an AR Sandbox from scratch extrapolates this simple ‘drag and drop’ truth to a complex, physical product that can be profitably sold. Ubiquitous products like Netflix the iPhone can increasingly be understood as things built by people who one day started with these same skills. We’re breaking down the barriers between our students and the world-changing technologies they see on the internet.

And what a place to do it. South Bend, Indiana — a small, Rust Belt city far from the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley and media companies of New York City. Our city is on the move, and the members of Code Legion are Exhibit A.

Watch our short film capturing the evening of final programming:






Jacob Titus