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Photo from Coding Dojo.
Photo from Coding Dojo.

Coding Dojo, a Bellevue, Wash.-based developer bootcamp, is launching a new training program for Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, starting today.

It’s the latest sign of the rising popularity of voice-enabled virtual assistants. Alexa has emerged as the early leader in a market that also includes offerings from Apple, Google, Microsoft and others.

Coding Dojo is adding an Alexa skills module to its 14-week program. Coding Dojo is also launching a YouTube series on building Alexa skills and hosting a hackathon led by Amazon Alexa employees in February next year. The event will be held at Coding Dojo’s San Jose, Calif. campus.

Coding Dojo held two Alexa workshops — one in Bellevue and one in the Bay Area — earlier this year. The winner of the San Jose contest created a skill for Alexa that enabled users to text friends or law enforcement in emergencies by giving an Echo device voice commands.

The success of the hackathons inspired Coding Dojo to create a formal Alexa program.

Coding Dojo CEO Richard Wang
Coding Dojo CEO Richard Wang

“We would love to partner with additional companies to do this,” said Coding Dojo CEO Richard Wang, in an interview. “A lot of social innovation projects come out of it.”

Coding Dojo has hosted similar hackathons with other companies, like Uber and Netflix. One student used the Uber API to make it easier for elderly users to summon rides. Another added a trigger warning for PTSD victims watching Netflix.

Beyond the hackathons, Coding Dojo students will have the option to spend several days learning to develop skills using Amazon’s Alexa API. They’ll learn to build tools that control smarthome devices and perform other functions using voice commands.

Engineers and evangelists from Amazon will visit Coding Dojo to teach students about the technology.

There isn’t a formal program to funnel Coding Dojo students into jobs on the Alexa team, but Wang thinks it’s likely that some students will join the Seattle tech giant after graduating. “I’m not going to be surprised if Amazon wanted to hire a few of our students,” he said.

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