Monday, August 30, 2010

UCT Python Course - Part 1

So this weekend Project Umonya (Umonya means Python in Zula) hosted a Python programming boot camp at the University of Cape Town for Grade 6 - 12 students who have never programmed before.

There were roughly 110 High School students signed up for the course with over 90 students attending for all 3 days.

The course could be called a Depth First introduction to Python as we really throw students in on the deep end. Not only do we cover all the basics such as sequencial, conditional and repetition statements but we also cover more advanced topics such as lists, string formatting and functions. What is amazing is how well all the students cope. I saw students come away from our course with a greater understanding of programming than the entire South African High School IT syllabus provides.

I think this can largely be attributed to our wonderful team of passionate tutors (some of whom are past South African Olympiad winners or top students in their degree programmes) as well as the ease with which python exposes these powerful programming concepts.

Speaking of our tutors, we had over 15 Tutors on hand for the entire weekend. They ranged from High School to Masters students, without them I don't think the course could have been the success it was. I must give a special shout out to Flora, Nina and Rizmari for showing all the young ladies who attended our course that Computer Science isn't a male only profession. I must also thank Stefano Rivera who took care of all the technical details and made sure everything just worked. He did all this while helping tutor, working on a pygame submission and hosting the Cape Town Ubuntu Global Jam (@mshuttleworth - Why haven't you hired him yet?) Also a big thank you to Marco Gallota who did most of the organization FROM Zurich - he even made the reservation for the Tutor dinner - and of course Michiel and Robert who ran things on the ground at UCT.

The course followed a fairly loose structure with the idea being that we give students a 15 minute or so lecture followed by some exercises. Obviously we have lots of room for improvement and I think there are a couple of topics we should have covered a bit better but on the whole I think this worked out rather well.

Overall the event was a huge success I think we received a lot of positive feedback from the kids, the parents and from Ewald from S1 (the event sponsor) who in his own personal capacity was on hand helping tutor the students and answering their questions about a career in software development - Big thank you to Ewald.

In Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog post I will mention some of the things we could have done better and my most positive experience for the whole weekend (getting some kids to program a hangman game!)

Till next time ...


  1. Jason,

    I have to say, I was really impressed with what you guys did and how great the weekend went. Not only did you prepare great material, but the tutors were clearly passionate about the course and it inspired the kids tremendously.

    I think I speak for the entire team at S1 when I say that we feel privileged to have played a part in such a great event.

    Keep up the good work, we need to attract those bright young minds to our industry.

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