School of Art, Media, and Technology

Meet the Parsons Code Club!

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At this year’s Google Geek Street Fair, we ran into BFA Design and Technology ’14 senior, Joel Califa, and BFA DT ’13 Valedictorian, Frederico Andrade.  The conversations that ensued, about life at Parsons, life after Parsons, geeks, code, pizza and People’s Pops, lead to this interview below. Enjoy  the Parsons Code Club words of wisdom, follow their Facebook Page, and join them at their meetings, every Friday in D12, 6 E16th St., 12th floor.

Joel Califa (left) and Freddie Andrade (right) at our gadgITERATION booth. This photo and the one below by Casey Dorobek, Parsons BFA Photography 2014

AMT: What brought you to the Google Geek Street Fair? 

Joel Califa: We are geeks and it was called a Geek Fair. Like moths to a flame, where the flame is a Geek Fair. I’m not great at similes.

Frederico Andrade: I am interested and curious in the development of ‘Silicon Alley’ and all of the related technology companies. The street fair was an opportunity to see what Google could put together in terms or representation.

AMT: Was it everything you dreamed it would be? 

JC: I expected more adult geeks that wanted to be there, and less uninterested children that had to be there.

FA: I was under the impression it would be a lot more like Disrupt, the yearly Tech Crunch event (read: pizza) that gathers dozens of startups in a small space and feeds them. I was amused to find my expectations completely wrong.

AMT: What’s the heartwarming story behind how you guys met? 

JC: We met in “Designing for Touch” with Jennifer Brook. Freddie’s team created a global data app that would make the world a better place. My team made an app for drinking beer. It was meant to be.

FA: We were opposing teams, which made for fun competition.


AMT: So, you’re founding members of the Parsons Code Club. What does the Code Club do?

JC: Our official-sounding constitution preamble: “The Code Club is a place for students of all departments to join and learn the skills and gain the understanding necessary to become the most proficient programmers they can be. We want to provide professional connections, industry standards in development, and pizza.” If it wasn’t clear, we’re in it for the pizza.

FA: The Code Club is a place for each and everyone’s inner awesome to grow. Our mission is to take the very talented design students we produce and help them understand and fall in love with the awesomeness of interactivity. The ability to make gorgeous things come to life is addictive and greatly empowering. Everyone who loves to make things should know how.  

AMT: What are your ultimate goals for the club? 

JC: We have members at every level, from very proficient programmers to absolute beginners who have never written a line of code. It’s about learning and helping each other get better. It’s been a very supportive environment so far, and we want to keep it that way. Last semester we had an awesome guy from Github come teach students git (version control software for code/anything), and ran a terminal workshop beforehand. People learned a lot, got free stickers, coffee, and pizza. This semester we’re planning a longer, more in-depth lecture series, weekly meetings where people can get help with their coding projects, a hackathon with our partner organizations from other schools, and way more pizza. It’s going to be huge.

FA: To have a healthy body of students participating and developing a community that can be extended beyond graduation, and with significant industry connections for technology. Maybe worldwide?

AMT: Tell us why  you choose to get your BFA in Design and Technology.

JC: I chose it because I am both a design geek and a technology geek and I couldn’t choose between the two.

FA:  My reasons for remaining in the program changed quite drastically. I started off wanting to work in entertainment, be it in game design or animation, but I soon discovered the fantastic opportunities that lie in web and app development.

AMT: Stepping even further out, what made you choose Parsons?

JC: I came to Parsons specifically for the DT program. I didn’t know who Tim Gunn was at the time.

FA: New York. And it had a sort of glimmer to it.



Tactical maneuvers from


AMT: How do you feel we differ from other schools?  

JC: We don’t have a campus?

FA: The location is very important. The ability to be in New York while growing as a creative individual meant to be exposed to a broad range of contexts, forced me to think as a global citizen and consider the relationship between my life and what I make and leave behind.

AMT: How would you say has your exposure to other disciplines within AMT contributed to your practice?

JC: I think I’m in the minority when I say that I more or less knew what I wanted to do beforehand. I’ve been into interaction design for about half of my life now, so nothing managed to steer me in a radically different direction. That’s not to say I haven’t grown, but the only thing I’ve learned from another discipline is that I’m never touching motion graphics again. Ever.

FA:  The ability to discuss and learn from students from many other programs both in AMT and in Parsons as a whole (Architecture and Fashion for example) enabled me to develop concepts and products beyond my own skill, and motivated me to learn and grow in many other directions not necessarily made obvious by my classes.


From Frederico Andrade's Thesis work:

From Frederico Andrade’s Thesis work:

AMT: What is something you’d like to tell an incoming student that you wish you had known when you got to Parsons? 

JC: I’m probably going to get into trouble for saying this, but here’s the big secret: You can do anything.The AMT advisors and faculty have time and time again allowed me to get into the classes I wanted, and get out of the classes I didn’t. This is your education, and it ain’t cheap, so make it count and don’t settle.

FA: Ask all of the questions when you think of them. The 3D printers are in the ARC on the 4th floor, the CNC is underground, the laser cutter is awesome. And make friends in EVERY PROGRAM.

AMT: What has been your overall favorite course/project? 

JC: I loved Designing for Usability, Designing for Touch, Interaction, Sketchbook 2.0, and so many more.I think my favorite project was Rendezvous, a platonic pickup bar.

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FA: Though I am very proud of a lot of different projects, my thesis was the most rewarding project I’ve done to date. It involves aid for disaster and social-related events. You can find it here.

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AMT: Freddie is a little bit infamous for an incident during the BFA CD(?) graduation ceremony, where he was a speaker. Tell us what happened. Did it feel for you like the mystical moment others say it was, and did you have any invisible wires tucked away in your suit jacket?

JC: I’m not Freddie, but I can tell you that certain people are sure the balloon was a ghost.

FA: During the speech, which my father graciously recorded for posterity, I’ve heard that the ventilation in the auditorium was carefully controlled by my partner in crime to direct the balloon right into reach. I’ve also heard it was a guiding spirit. To suspend my disbelief or not? That is the question. The opportunity to speak was delightful and I hope my remarks were well received by everyone.

AMT: Joel, what do you plan to do with YOUR LAST YEAR AT PARSONS!? 

JC: I plan to… graduate.

AMT: When is the first meeting of the Parsons Code Club? 

JC/FA: Friday, September 6th, from 6pm – 9pm in room 1200 of 2 W. 13th St.

AMT: Finally, you guys appear to enjoy People’s Pops. If People’s Pops made a flavor based on you, what would that flavor be? 

JC: Mango Chili

FA: Awesome victory swag. It would taste like happiness. And smell like fun. Just kidding, good old dark chocolate.

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Thanks guys!

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