While some programmers start to tinker with coding during their youth, others find their passion a little later in life. For CodeWizardsHQ instructor Grant Swalwell, it wasn’t until he went to college that he decided to pursue computer science. The engineer-turned-coder found that he preferred his programming courses above all others and saw the opportunities in learning to code. He now shares those opportunities with his students.

Grant’s Journey to Coding

While in school, Grant was initially drawn to the humanities and was interested in language, arts, and philosophy, but he recognized the value of a STEM education and decided to pursue an engineering track at Oklahoma City Community College. He graduated with an engineering degree and transferred to the University of Oklahoma to complete his bachelor’s. It was there that he uncovered a passion for coding.

Grant and his sister
Grant and his sister

“At Oklahoma City Community College, there were a couple of programming classes that caught my interest. Then I went to the University of Oklahoma and started in industrial engineering. I liked learning about it, but it just wasn’t clicking especially well for me. I ended up taking a couple of advanced programming classes, and I really enjoyed them. I finally made the major switch when I was sitting in another class listening to another lecture about steel, and I knew that I’d much rather be programming.”

Grant completed his degree in computer science four years ago and then supplemented his coding expertise with self-learning and coding boot camps. Ready for the working world, he first took an internship at a local development company and then was hired by the Oklahoma State Lottery. Grant credits his lottery job with teaching him how to solve real-world coding problems, and found it challenging but fun. He led several projects that he proudly recalls, including the creation of their website

After finishing his degree and a year at the Oklahoma Lottery, Grant recognized the need for a sabbatical and decided to travel. He spent a year in the Oregon area, taking in the exquisite natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. He visited national parks and enjoyed adventuring in nature.

Teaching Kids to Code

When he returned, he considered his career options and decided to refocus. He remembered what had sparked and motivated him while in school.

“Instead of trying to go straight back into another development job, I decided to weigh my options, and I thought about how much I loved being a programming tutor while I was in college. It was the most rewarding job! It was so much fun teaching people to code and building personal relationships with students. I stumbled upon CodeWizards when I was looking at programming education options.”

Grant spotted the CodeWizardsHQ difference right away, blending valuable tech learning with fun, motivational classroom experiences.

“CodeWizards is set up in a way that kids are having fun, and it encourages them to have fun versus trying to get them to treat it like another serious academic environment.”

Grant teaches all levels at CodeWizardsHQ, elementary, middle, and high school students. While he likes teaching each programming language, he is drawn to the creativity of web development.

A flower from Grant's garden
A flower from Grant’s garden

“I would say that as much as I’ve enjoyed some of the higher-level Python courses, my favorites are probably the web development courses because you can get very hands-on. Kids and teens use the Internet and are on websites every day. It’s a great teaching opportunity to let them know that what they’re learning in class looks like a website.”

Grant has one particular classroom moment that resonates with him: a student who went the extra mile and left the class speechless.

“I had a student in one of my Scratch classes who made a Flappy Bird clone. He truly went above and beyond. It had an intro video, a menu with lots of buttons and settings, various levels for the game, and music. He also made a mobile-friendly version for his grandparents to play. It was crazy. It was a full-fledged game. I just opened this amazing homework, and the class and I were floored. The other students were just beaming at it. We were all excited, and the rest of the class was just tons and tons of fun as a result.”

Grant also has a strong affinity for the kids who try their best and turn their progress around when they have struggled.

“I would say that my very favorite moments have been times when, during class, I check a student’s work who has been struggling and the student is suddenly keeping up with the class, and their code is looking great. The most memorable moments have been when I watch a student really starting to find their pace with the course.”

Grant believes that a coding education should be started early before children become intimidated by the thought of learning computer programming. He explained that you can see a difference in those kids.

Grant's cat, Bulgogi
Grant’s cat, Bulgogi

“No one has told them they can’t do it yet or that programming is too hard. They haven’t internalized that and they’re not afraid to try. It’s a lot of fun teaching them, because they’re fearless as a result and blow away your expectations.”

Hobbies and Downtime

In his free time, Grant loves to cook. He’s immersed in complex rice dishes at the moment and has started to make his own sushi. He also enjoys the outdoors, hiking, and gardening. He’s excited for the Oklahoma spring and the opportunity to cultivate his garden. He also likes to learn and read in his downtime. He’s been studying math and reading old-school sci-fi lately. 

Grant’s full schedule and a cat named Bulgogi keep him pretty busy. CodeWizardsHQ and our students are fortunate that Grant brings his passions for programming and teaching to our classes. We are proud to shine a light on his exemplary teaching and accomplishments.