Training to become a software developer, without any fixed courses, teachers, entry requirements and a strict teaching program: this is what the international school “42” wants to offer. The school is currently opening its third German location, on the outskirts of Berlin-Neukölln, in the former Geyer works in the Harzer Kiez.

The name is not a random number, but an allusion to the answer to the question of all questions, freely adapted from Douglas Adams and his book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That answer is just: 42.

From June, up to 600 students will learn project-based how to code, think critically and solve problems at the school. The training is free of charge, there are no formal admission criteria – however, those interested must prove their suitability in a selection camp. Special software skills are not required for this, only, as the school says, an open and curious approach.

District Mayor Martin Hikel (SPD) sees Neukölln through the new school on the way to becoming a hotspot for international IT specialists. “At 42 Berlin, it’s not where you come from that counts, but where you want to go. In this way, 42 Berlin creates perspectives that many people from Berlin in general and Neukölln in particular are often denied,” said Hikel.

He is pleased that career prospects are now being created for people who have talent but do not meet the formal entry criteria for university training.

Max Senges, Rector of 42 Berlin, praised the Neukölln location and the diversity of the neighborhood. “Complex problems can only be solved by looking at things from different perspectives. This requires diverse teams with different skills and backgrounds. We give them a safe space where they can try and develop themselves and their talents and ideas,” he shared.

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply. In the first step, interested parties have to fill out an online test, which specifically asks about logical thinking. This is followed by a four-week boot camp, which the school calls “piscine” because the candidates would have to jump in at the deep end together to learn the basics of programming.

Then the actual training begins: according to the “peer-to-peer learning” concept, the students themselves decide what and how they learn and how they acquire the knowledge. The study itself is organized similarly to a computer game in which different levels are reached.

The training lasts two to five years, of which the students spend around one year in practical projects at companies – and can thus already make contacts in the tech industry.

In the future, there will also be other offers at the school, such as a digital production laboratory for people from the neighborhood and various events. The school is financed with millions of dollars in support from business, for example from companies such as Volkswagen, Microsoft and Bayer AG.