Christopher Omundson is a one-stop shop of practical skills and abilities whose career path has taken numerous fascinating twists and turns. Somehow though, this path has always led him back to computer science. He brings that wealth of experience to the classroom as a CodeWizardsHQ instructor.
A Foundation in Computer Engineering
From a young age, Christopher Omundson loved technology. He enjoyed working with computers, but it was the hardware side that fascinated him most. He was interested in programming but at the time, there were limited online resources for learning how to code, and high school classes were almost nonexistent. Christopher had to wait until college to expand his coding knowledge.
Christopher started college as a computer engineering major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. There he found a firm foundation in computer science education. During college though, the Pacific Northwest came calling and he transferred to the University of Oregon at Eugine. In Oregon, a world of new possibilities led Christopher to pursue a degree in political science.
Contracting to Coding
Immediately after college, Christopher worked for a residential contractor and there the self-described jack of all trades built decks and tiled floors for several years. During this time, he was growing a word-of-mouth business. As it turns out, it was building and repairing computers that propelled Christopher’s career for the next phase of his life.
“I wanted to be one of those curated, custom-made computer guys. You buy a computer from me and it’s going to work and be cool and be better.”
His business flourished until a downturn in the economy. It was then that Christopher heard about a STEM teaching opportunity and his old passion for coding was rekindled.
“I started working for an after-school STEM program and it got me back into coding. I was teaching kids how to code and seeing all of the different avenues of how they can code, from Scratch to Python.”
Christopher created his company’s summer camp STEM program. He introduced Raspberry Pi computers (a low-cost, credit-card-sized computer) to his Lego robotics class. These single-board computers came with Minecraft and Christopher taught his students how to use Python to make structures efficiently. His third-grade students were using x and y coordinates to master the art of efficient Minecraft building!
“Basically, I just picked up a book on Python and I was trying to look for programs that would be applicable for kids. I did the programs on the Raspberry Pi and I thought, well this is ok, but why not make it better? That’s when I started making my own curriculum. I started designing my own Python programs that build a house in Minecraft bit-by-bit using functions. Taking the idea of breaking down code like you would build a house. You have to build the wall. You have to put a roof up. I had these kids doing this and it was really fun.”
Christopher ran this program for seven years and then Covid put a halt to the in-person classes. He remained a teacher, though, providing virtual and one-on-one in-person tutoring.
A CodeWizardsHQ Instructor
A year ago, he found a position with CodeWizardsHQ. With years of experience teaching kids to code in STEM camps, Christopher was a natural fit for CodeWizardsHQ’s Minecraft and Roblox-themed camps. He now stays busy teaching all age levels from elementary to high school in the year-round core program. He enjoys teaching each level and has a unique way of looking at the dynamics of his classes.
“I kind of act like we’re not in class. Without even explicitly saying it, I treat students like we’re all working collaboratively on a project.”
Collaboration and teamwork are two beneficial life skills that are enhanced by learning to code. Christopher uses a teamwork approach to help students who might be struggling with an assignment, ensuring them that they are working together to support each other.
Christopher’s favorite moments in class center around little learning epiphanies.
“Anytime where without directly being told, they find the thread of what I’m trying to ask them, that moment of realization is so much fun and exciting. When somebody says I have a problem with my code and they look at their code and figure it out themselves, I love every time that happens, that moment of realization, connecting those dots.”
Christopher says that as a coding teacher, one of the most important things he’s learned is to allow students of any age to be frustrated, to work through the problem, and come out on the other side. This practice enhances problem-solving skills and persistence in students.
The Path Less Traveled
Christopher makes his home today in Oregon and takes advantage of the incredible beauty by playing his sport outside. He is an avid disc golfer.
“It’s a great way to have outdoor activity and the Pacific Northwest is gorgeous. You are able to go to courses and really challenge yourself in different ways. I don’t want to be just out in the open throwing in a straight line. I like the forest ones where we have to shape our shot around trees.”
From his unique career track to the sport that he’s played for over a decade, it seems that Christopher has always taken the path less traveled. The curves in the road have yielded a set of skills that not only benefit him but enrich the learning experience of each of his CodeWizardsHQ students.