Learning OpenGL the Big Nerd Ranch way


Posted by Jaime | Posted in What's New | Posted on 27-10-2007

Big Nerd Ranch HatI learn by reading and I read a lot of books. From the beginning of my programming career I have been a self taught programmer who has had the luck to work with some talented developers and has had the chance to work on some strange projects.

Since college I have been turned off by the structure of many courses. I understand how academia tries to get your to think like a scholar, by not teaching you the course, but instead, ramble on about something loosely related to the class and force you, the student, to teach yourself by performing endless research and review. Why then do I need a teacher to learn C++, Objective-C or Java if in the end, I am the one doing the reading… the studying… the research… and the teaching? I don’t need to pay someone to do that!

Well, let’s take a look at an alternative approach of learning at the Big Nerd Ranch. Situated in Georgia, this company understands that professionals need to learn a particular technology quickly and with applications to real world scenarios. I got to experience their Boot Camp style of teaching in a course that teaches OpenGL in just 5 days.

When you think about it, it seems pretty tough that you can learn anything as complex as OpenGL in five days, but their setup is such that you’re primed for learning. The Inn that you stay at is far from noise and distractions, good food is provided for you, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and their prescription for power learning also includes a good nights rest; in their own words, “[…] caffeine is not a substitute for sleep”, and sleep is what you need if you want to learn everything that is taught there.

Rocco Bowling was our teacher for this course and you couldn’t have asked for a better one. His resume includes OpenGL games created for Freeverse, makers of Big Bang Board Games, and has won multiple awards for games submitted to uDevGames and the Independent Games Festival. His style of teaching focuses on highlighting topics that easily frustrate students who are learning OpenGL and has plenty of code examples to show you how something may be done in OpenGL.

Although the class has a syllabus defined, Rocco wasn’t deterred in answering any question thrown his way. As a matter of fact, he found a way to incorporate any new question into the current topic and is quick to offer one-on-one help.

In the end I learned a lot more then I expected to and saved myself a ton of time that might have been spent in frustration, learning the ins and outs of this complex graphics language. And for any questions that I might have afterwards, students completing the course also get access to a mailing list so that post-course questions can be answered. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone programmer who needs to learn OpenGL quickly. Considering the price also includes the OpenGL’s Programmer’s Guide, Fifth Edition, accommodations, food, computer if needed, and transportation, this is a good deal and a great method for learning.

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