The 42 Piscine: Going Off and Into the Deep End

Calendar 42 Piscine

Some people outside of 42 may wonder what a typical daily and/or weekly schedule for the “piscine” might look like.  Some have asked: what sort of commitment is expected from each participant in order to be selected into the program?

The piscine is admittedly, a complicated and intricate beast.  Attempting to render much (not all) of this information clearer to all, we introduce you to the fictional, fellow pisciner “Jenny”.  As Jenny is a native Californian, as with approximately 83% of those in the January 2017 piscine, she comes to us from within the United States.  Although it would admittedly be easy (and perhaps tempting) to troll Jenny (and by extension her creators) for her hypothetical existence, we don’t do things like that around here now, do we?

Peer To Peer Learning

Let’s all begin by considering the example of a baby trying to learn how to walk.  A baby will inevitably fall several times before successfully making a succession of steps.  He or she will possibly take some ideas for how to begin this difficult task, in part, by observing siblings and others walking around them as well as from their own desire to alleviate the frustration deriving from wanting to get around more efficiently than they can just by crawling.  Each baby begins taking steps at their own rate and time. It is through experience, repetition, and practice that each baby will take those first steps, and that Jenny and others like her will build their technical skill set.

It would be crazy to imagine grown-ups and/or parents trying to bark commands to a roomful of 6-month old babies or trying to explain the fundamentals of walking to that population.  Similarly, it would be absurd for us to expect you to learn how to code perfectly from the start– nor would it be reasonable for you to expect others to show you exactly how find each solution.  Asking others to achieve something that has many organic and developmental elements has its complications.  Although you may not always be given the top recognition for your efforts at making improvements to your skills during each assignment at 42, you are always encouraged and expected to persist.

At 42, potential scores for assigned work will range 0 – 100.  Despite the numerous ways that you are to be evaluated, it should be noted that each participant will often encounter an experience of submitting work, for which they will receive an evaluation of 0.  Although potentially shocking at first, this is both normal and commonplace in this domain.  One should not be overly discouraged by this; rather, one can take some comfort from the following thought: a distinction is and will continue to be made for work submitted that is deemed to be a 0 (with little to no effort) and for work deemed to be a 0 (with great effort).  Therefore, it is always important to put forth a strong effort, even when you receive a 0 for it.

At 42, the daily and weekly schedules are designed to push new recruits hard toward the deep end of the pool right from the get-go.  As each pisciner is expected to average roughly 12-15 hours per day in order to meet all of the rigorous demands of this evaluation period where your training and the high expectations set by the 42 staff will require you to make a similar commitment to the shared mission of becoming an increasingly self-reliant learner over the course of the piscine experience.  The project work itself, will lead you down a challenging trail determined to see if you will have what it takes to be selected as a student at 42 in the coming weeks and months.

As with computer language, which begins with 0, the first week of the piscine is called “week 00”.  Therefore, the three subsequent weeks in Jenny’s piscine experience will be called week 01, week 02, and week 03.  Assigned work will correspond on the intra site calendar with a daily description.  During the first three weeks, new material and new project work is presented and assigned everyday (Monday – Friday).

In Jenny’s case, she arrived at 42 on Sunday January 8th, (of week 00 sometime between 6pm and 10pm) to perform her check-in at Nostromo, where she was given keys to her room.  She settled in and chatted with some of her fellow newbies.  That night, she played ping pong in the rec room before finishing her room set up and going to bed to be well rested and prepared for the coming challenge.  Her first appointment at 42 would be the following day– Day 00, Monday, January 9th at 8:42am.

In the main building, Jenny arrived 15 minutes before the start time and chose her spot.  There were some quiet moments when she first settled in before everybody began their project work.  Many students were curious in this new environment and began asking her questions about her experience thus far.  Her picture was taken that morning, and she was given an Access Card in order to begin taking meals at the cafeteria.  She then received her first assignment, which would be due the following night, January 10th at 11:42pm.

Despite her incredible efforts and through no fault of her own, she would unfortunately receive a 0 for this assignment; she was initially crushed.  However, she adapted her mindset knowing that she had put forth her maximum effort, and she continued working hard on all of her subsequent assignments.  She began to build up her coding skills while understanding that she would have many new concepts to digest and process before becoming a highly-skilled and effective coder.

Looking ahead in her schedule at the first three weeks (thus weeks 00, 01 & 02), Jenny discovered that some of her other duties and commitments for completing the piscine would partially entail:

  – processing all of the new concepts that are introduced.
  – completing the exercises given out each day. Jenny is given an assignment every day of these first three weeks at 8:42am and is expected to return it by 11:42pm the following day.  (Thus, she receives an assignment at 8:42am Tuesday, which is due at 11:42pm Wednesday, and so on…)
  – all participants have one day to have their work corrected 3 times by 3 randomly assigned individual colleagues.
  – taking an exam each Friday night. The exam covers all of the material presented that week.

After the exam, a group project called “rush” begans; it will be due by the following Sunday night. In randomly assigned groups of 3, rush participants complete the project together.  Work performed by each participant will be evaluated based on the strength of their demonstrated teamwork.

An example of a rush project that Jenny and her two colleagues will be assigned during one of the weeks would turn out to be when they were asked to create a solving machine for a large quantity of Sudoku puzzles.  As with the other assigned rush projects, this project allowed her to employ some of the skills introduced earlier that particular week.

ListView of 42 Piscine Project

During week 01, there is a special day, that at 42, we call “Day 24”, beginning at 6pm on Thursday of that week and ending at 6pm the following evening.  At the start of every hour of Day 24, new exercises are given out.  Jenny might have asked, “Really???… At 3am, 4am, 5am, etc., there are new assignments???…”  Yep.  The main goal of this day is to evaluate the time management skills of each candidate.

Week 02 is like week 00 in terms of solo projects.  Jenny begins to see some repetition of schedule and feels a bit relieved by that.  However, she will have to brace herself for a busy final week.

Week 03 differs in that no new language C concepts are introduced, yet students will team up in self-chosen groups of two, starting on Friday of week 02, in order to complete a project by the following Thursday (week 03).

The final exam, which is an “alone-in-the-dark” experience, where all pisciners must work individually, cut-off from internet service, will start on Friday morning– during which time, they will be given easy exercises to complete.  This experience is truly like looking at yourself in the mirror to see your current state.  In this way, the exam is a tool that should be used in order to evaluate how much progress has been made in certain areas as well as what must still be processed or improved upon.

By the end of the month, Jenny will surely be exhausted, but with all the practical knowledge she has gained about coding, the 42 program, and her own capacities therein, she will have finished the piscine with the comfort of having tried her best and with a sense of accomplishment as she awaits hearing the news about her selection into the program.

Published by

John Lameyer

Web Writer at 42 Silicon Valley