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(Artwork from

Credit: Max Mester

Three Penn students launched a club this semester to help beginners get their start in software development, as many of the existing clubs on campus require prior experience in the field. 

Penn Creative Labs aims to build a community of designers and developers who work together to build projects, focusing primarily on web and app development and UI/UX design. Applicants do not need any prior experience to join PCL and will instead receive training upon joining, co-founder and Engineering sophomore Grace Jiang said. 

All club members will participate in a two-week boot camp to learn design or development before they begin working on a semester-long project. The development track covers topics such as Github, HTML, and CSS, while the design track covers topics such as typography, color theory, and Figma 101.

Jiang started preparing to launch the club during the fall 2020 semester, when she reached out to College junior Olivia Zha and Wharton junior Christina Lu to co-found the organization with her.

“Penn doesn’t have that many beginner-friendly tech clubs, and so I wanted to create one and have a space for Penn students to learn about software development in an inclusive and friendly environment,” Jiang said.

PCL had their first general meeting on Feb. 8, and Lu said they were very excited by the interest in the club.

A lot of the project-based clubs at Penn have big teams that work on predetermined projects, Jiang said, explaining that members therefore do not have much freedom and creative choice regarding what they work on.

“Many people, especially freshman, come into college with minimal experience and don’t feel qualified and so they end up not applying to these tech clubs,” Jiang said. 

Zha said that PCL also plans to allow members to choose what projects to work on, enabling them to create something they are passionate about and can take ownership of.

Social chair and College junior Olivia Cheng said she joined PCL over winter break because of the club's collaborative and inclusive environment. She was also excited by the club's commitment to welcoming students with no background knowledge and teaching them about software design.

“Within Penn computer science culture, it can feel really hard to get started and get some experience without already being very good at software development,” Cheng said.

In her role as social chair, she hopes to make sure members have fun and get to know each other while they are working on their projects. Due to COVID-19, however, she added that PCL is only hosting virtual social events this semester.

“At Penn, the classes can be very demanding and I want coding to seem fun and enjoyable and something to bond over with other people instead of something that seems like a lot of work or something that isolates you,” Cheng said.