Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hyperion Development Awarded Fourth PSF grant

Today’s blog is about another African educational project that the PSF has recently funded. 
Hyperion Development, a South African based company, has been providing online training in web development and programming Python Courses, as well as in-person training and workshops in specific IT topics, to people around the world. Hyperion offers free courses to students, many of whom are unable to take formal computer science courses and others who wish or need to supplement their formal Computer Science studies. Hyperion also provides workshops and courses for businesses and professionals. They are currently the largest non-university trainer of Python in South Africa. 
According to their founder and director Riaz Moola,
Over 3500 full-time university and high school students have completed free training courses in C++/Python/Java/ programming and Computer Science topics with Hyperion. Students from over 80% of all tertiary institutions in South Africa take our courses, with approximately 54% of these students studying for full-time Computer Science degrees.
Hyperion’s courses are run on the Python-powered Virtual Learning Environment, which was developed with the help of a PSF grant awarded in 2013. The Hyperion Portal, a platform built entirely by South Africans, is used to deliver their Massive Open Online Courses, which are 100% free to full-time students. In addition, Hyperion helps students and IT professionals find jobs through their Referrals Program.
Currently, Hyperion’s Cape Town team is attempting to expand further by offering free Python training to students at the University of Cape Town. They have also conducted teacher training events, most recently in Cape Town at the 2014 Department of Education Western Cape Teachers Conference.
Their excellent work has earned them three previous grants from the PSF since 2013. How Hyperion advances the PSF’s mission is evident from a recent remark made by PSF Director and Co-Chair of the Outreach & Education Committee, David Mertz: 
The reality of the world is that not everyone can gain admission to, nor afford to attend, elite universities. It is my belief, and the belief of the PSF, that computer literacy today has a status increasingly similar to natural language literacy, and should be a skill and capability that all people obtain and have access to. More advanced research in these areas in universities has an essential role, but a basic capability is something we should strive to universalize, not to gate with accreditation, admission procedures, strict academic prerequisites and other requirements, etc.
The current grant will sponsor free 5-month Python training at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Python Namibia

The second PSF sponsored African conference I want to tell you about is Python Namibia (only a mere 3500 kilometers or 2175 miles south of Cameroon). The conference, the first ever held in Namibia, was held Feb 2 – 5, 2015 at the University of Namibia in the city of Windhoek. The PSF provided funds at the level of "Gold Sponsorship" that were used to subsidize travel for international attendees and to purchase a banner. 
Photo credit to python-namibia.org

According to an email to the PSF from organizer Daniele Procida, “. . . the event was a success, with 65 attendees for the four days, and was met with huge enthusiasm by our Namibian hosts. I hope to be back in Namibia next year for an even bigger event, organised by the newly-established Python community there.”
The official website Python Namibia provides additional information and thanks to the conference's additional sponsors: Cardiff University in Wales (through its Phoenix Project), The University of Namibia, and the Django/Python web agency, Divio AG in Zürich. 
One of the attendees was the PSF's good friend, the geologist Carl Trachte, who sums up his reasons for attending PyCons all around the world as:
The neat thing about country/regional conferences is that you more frequently get to talk to developers or tech professionals from that place who don’t always frequent conferences outside their area. Seeing how Python (and digital technology in general) is being used in Sub-Saharan Africa (for the establishment of a wireless network, for example), learning what the average work day is like for a Pythonista in these parts of the world - those are things you really can’t get without being there.
The four days of talks, workshops, coding, collaboration and interaction engendered such enthusiasm and interest that on the last day a group of the participants self-organized to form “PyNam,the Python Namibia Association”.

Photo Credit to python-namibia.org

We certainly look forward to more exciting projects and events coming out of this group.



Pycon Cameroon

The PSF was delighted to hear recently from the organizers of two Python conferences held in Africa that we had helped sponsor. 
The first of them, Pycon Cameroon, is the subject of this blog. It was held in December at The Blue Pearl Hotel in the North West Region city of Bamenda. 
According to organizer Ngangsia Akumbo, the main purpose of this event was to generate awareness among young people, "especially to young girls in Nkwen – Bamenda – Cameroon on the importance of writing code using the python programming language."
Photo credit Ngangsia Akumbo
Most of the attendees were brand-new to programming and had never heard of Python. Many of them did not have their own laptops. Although the event lasted for one day, its importance and impact as an early response to great need is huge. Although Cameroon is a nation that provides state-run public education to children, and the literacy rate is a fairly admirable 71%, these achievements are undercut by substantial child labor (over 50% of children work), poverty, and lack of access to health care. In addition, teachers are disproportionately located in the south, leaving northern schools understaffed and those students at an educational disadvantage. See Wikipedia
The PSF is proud to have been a part of this early outreach effort and hopes to see a great many more in the future. Thanks so much to the organizers and presenters. 
We urge our readers to check out these websites to learn more: 
PyCon Cameroon and for Conference videos, including one of Ngangsia's talk, see You Tube Cameroon and Cameroon video.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

John Pinner

I am very sad to report that John Pinner has passed away. The Python Community has lost a great friend. John received a PSF Community Service Award in 2010 for his many contributions. He was a PSF fellow and an organizer of PyCon UK from 2007 to 2014 and of EuroPython from 2004 to 2011. He was also a frequent speaker at PyCons, and at workshops and users' groups, as well as an enthusiastic and effective advocate of Python and Open Source. 


John was an original contributor to Free and Libre Open Source Software UK (FLOSS), which started out as the UK Unix Users Group (UKUUG). After working 21 years as Principal Engineer for The Rover Company Limited, he decided to found his own company, Clockwork Software Systems.
His dedication to and interest in Python are best expressed in his own words:
Thanks to Linux Journal I 'discovered' Python in 2000 and have been using it ever since; together with an occasional regression to C, it covers all my programming needs. I find that it gets in the way least of all the languages I have used, and brings back the joy to programming. I am proud to be an elected member of the Python Software Foundation, and am something of a Python evangelist, through running training courses and promoting such events such as PyCon UK.
I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting and spending time with John at PyCon UK in 2013. He was a delightful host, full of energy, knowledge about the locale (history, good beers and the best pubs, landmarks, neighborhoods, cathedrals), and enthusiastic good will. To give a sense of his warm-hearted and jovial personality to those who didn't know him, his intermediate-level Python tutorial included such topics as WTF is Pythonic and it's not C, C++ or Java, don't try and make it so. Heartfelt condolences to his family and to all whose lives he touched. He will be sorely missed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

PSF Community Service Award goes to Django Girls

Last week the PSF Board passed the following resolution:
“RESOLVED, that the Python Software Foundation award the 4th Quarter 2014 Community Service Awards to Ola Sitarska and Ola Sendecka for their work creating and growing Django Girls, an educational program which has reached more than half a dozen countries, and continues to grow to many more.”
Django Girls was founded by Ola Sitarska and Ola Sendecka as a workshop for about 20 people at EuroPython 2014 in Berlin. According to the Django Girls Website
"Django Girls is a non-profit organization that empowers and helps women to organize free, one-day programming workshops by providing tools, resources and support."
I asked Ola Sitarska for her reaction to receiving the PSF award and she responded:
"Receiving the Community Service Award was a wonderful surprise and amazing honor. I never expected that to happen and I couldn't be more grateful for all the support me and Ola received from the Python community while working on Django Girls."
She also gave me some additional background on their extraordinary growth and future plans.
"So far, we've taught Python and Django to 670 women in places like Germany, Poland, Uganda, Kenya, Ukraine, Taiwan, Australia, United States, and many more.  All attendees were complete beginners in the world of technology, but a couple of them are already working as Django Developers, taking an active role in Python and Django communities. This year we hope to grow even more, develop new open source teaching materials and setup a Django Girls non-profit organization based in US. You can help us make it happen by becoming a Django Girls Patron."
The PSF isn't the only organization that has recognized the significant contribution made by Django Girls. Last year they were honored with the Django Software Foundation's "Malcolm Tredinnick Memorial Prize".
I'm also very happy to report that the Django Girls will be bringing their one-day workshop to PyCon 2015 in Montreal on April 9: PyCon Montreal 2015 Django Girls Workshop. In addition, there will be workshops all over the world next year. See Django Girls.org for the full schedule of cities and to find out how to become a Django Girls Patron.
For those unable to attend a workshop, Django Girls also provides a free online tutorial that has been used by more 30,000 people. I, myself, as a novice programmer, have taken it and found it to be extremely understandable, effective, and fun. 
A hearty congratulations and thank you to this terrific organization!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Enroll as PSF Voting Member

"Membership has its privileges!"
Since the new PSF bylaws were adopted in 2013, there have been several new membership categories that allow for voting rights.
Unfortunately it has taken some time for the PSF to devise a form to allow members to report their eligibility for those categories. We apologize, but here it is at last: Voting Membership.
We know that many of you have made valuable contributions to the language and the PSF, so we hope that you will take the next step and claim your right to vote. Please review the membership criteria at Membership Bylaws.
And for those of you who are not yet PSF members, we encourage you to join under the Basic Membership category. All it takes is to sign up here: PSF Membership.
Thanks to Director David Mertz for the creation of the form and to Directors Marc-André Lemburg and Nick Coghlan for their assistance.

Addendum: Just to clarify, if you are already a voting member (e.g., as a PSF Fellow), there is no need to do anything more. This new form is for Basic Members who do not as yet have voting rights but who qualify according to the criteria.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Raspberry Pis in Space: AstroPi

Personal Note: In 2013, I attended my first PyCon in Santa Clara, CA. At the time, I was a complete novice at programming, but interested both because my partner had been a Python geek for a long time and because I was embarking on a new career as a freelance tutor, writer, and educator, and wanted to learn about the educational potential of the open source tech movement. At the end of the conference, the announcement of a surprise gift to be given to each attendee was met with the kind of enthusiastic, almost frenzied joy I have only seen previously at rock concerts when an unexpected superstar steps onto the stage to accompany a lesser known headliner (I would give an example here, but it would certainly date me).

At the 2013 PyCon, each attendee got a Raspberry Pi—a tiny, adaptable, extremely affordable ($25-$35 USD), yet very powerful, single-board computer that would prove to be a catalyst for the spread of computer literacy to young and young-at-heart people worldwide.


Image credit: "Raspberry Pi B+ top" by Lucasbosch - Own work. 
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Raspberry Pi Foundation created the first marketable device in 2011. Their mission, "to promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing” makes them a natural ally of the PSF. According to PSF Director, Marc-André Lemburg, “The PSF board thinks it's a great idea to get the PSF and the RPF working together more closely, since we share similar goals and there's a large overlap in communities, especially on the education and young coders side.” Furthermore, Raspberry Pis have been used to teach coding primarily in Scratch and Python, and they are rapidly gaining in popularity. Currently, over 4.5 million Raspberry Pis have been produced and shipped. 

One of the most imaginative and exciting of the RPF's educational programs currently underway in the UK is a competition that will allow UK primary and secondary school students a chance to do real scientific research in space. For the competition, teams of students will devise experiments and/or create software for Raspberry Pis that will be deployed aboard the International Space Station by British European Space Agency Astronaut,Tim Peake. The data collected will be downloaded to the students conducting the winning experiments.

The RPF's and the UK's commitment to teaching computing skills is further reflected in their providing teaching resources to aid students in creating their contest submissions. These resources will be further linked to current teaching curricula in order to enhance education in STEM fields. Funding and collaboration are coming not only from educational institutions like the UK Space Agency, UKspace, ESERO-UK and ESA, but also from UK industry. For more details, see AstroPi.

Stay tuned for a future post on another education project involving Raspberry Pi: UNICEF's Learning Initiative, as well as some info on the newly released, quad-core, Rasberry Pi 2.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Python featured in "Nature"

The esteemed, international scientific journal Nature has just published an article that names Python as THE programming language to use for scientists and researchers. The article, written by Jeffrey M. Perkel, Programming: Pick up Python a powerful programming language with huge community support. makes clear that programming skills are necessary tools for all working scientists. And Python is increasingly becoming the language that is considered the most powerful, flexible, and easy-to-learn tool available for working with what has become the raw material of today's science—big data. 
Photo credit: Kirby Urner CC-BY-2.0
Perkel's account begins with a case example. Dr. Adina Howe, an Environmental Engineer, realized upon taking a research job that she needed programming skills. Python was the language recommended to her by her boss at her first research lab job. Currently, as a Professor of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University, she includes programming skills in the curricula for future scientists. 
According to Perkel, "Among the host of computer-programming languages that scientists might choose to pick up, Python, first released in 1991 by Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum, is an increasingly popular (and free) recommendation. It combines simple syntax, abundant online resources and a rich ecosystem of scientifically focused toolkits with a heavy emphasis on community."
The Python community is cited as particularly important to Python's growing adoption. Perkel quotes PSF Director Jessica McKellar, who uses the concept of a "virtuous cycle" to help explain Python's rapid growth. According to McKellar "new users extend the language into new areas, which in turn attracts still more users."
Perkel also credits the many Python packages and libraries ("batteries included") that allow the language to be useful for a huge variety of purposes. In fact, as the programming community knows very well, that is the beauty of open source—if a need arises, the community will create a module or library to meet that need. Specific packages mentioned in the article are NumPy (mathematical arrays), SciPy (linear algebra, differential equations, signal processing and more), SymPy (symbolic mathematics), matplotlib (graph plotting) and Pandas (data analysis), and Cython.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

PyCon Belarus

One function the PSF is happy to do is to send a PSF Director to PyCons in various parts of the world to give a talk and to provide information about and encourage membership in the PSF. Last week, PSF Director, David Mertz, attended PyCon Belarus in Minsk where he spoke about a new Python language feature (Python's (future) type annotation system(s)and met many amazing Python users. 



Along with David, the other invited keynote speaker was Austin Bingham, originally from Texas and currently co-owner and founder of Sixty North in Stavanger, Norway. Austin spoke on Python refactoring with Rope and Traad.
According to David Mertz, having a PSF Director attend and participate at these conferences "allows us to support the PSF mission, to make new contacts outside the US, and to promote the new membership model."
The January 31st conference, the first ever held in Belarus, was a one-day affair that took place at EventSpace located in central Minsk. Approximately 150 people attended. There were 14 talks, comprising two tracks; talks were given in either Russian or English. Many speakers and attendees came from Russia and Ukraine, both of which have had active recent PyCons
In the PyCon tradition, lively lightening talks were a popular feature. Austin's talk about what the hell super() does behind the scenes was particularly memorable (hint: see Michele Simionato's article Python 2.3 Method Resolution Order).
One of the corporate sponsors of PyCon Belarus was the Belorussian software company, Wargaming, developer of the hugely popular online multiplayer game World of TanksWargaming employs around 2000 people in Minsk, including 900 software developers. Wargaming also has offices in several other cities worldwide. About 90% of Wargaming's codebase is in Python. David Mertz visited at their invitation and reprised his conference talk. He also discussed performance concerns and optimization. Specifically, major tools allowing significant speed-ups include PyPy and PyPy-STMCythonNumba, as well as plain old C extension modules. David's video is available on You Tube.
Pictures of PyCon Belarus are available at PyCon Belarus pics. Videos of talks are at PyCon Belarus youtube.
For a list of PyCons around the world go to the PSF website.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Geek Girls Carrots coming to PyCon 2015!

Earlier this week, I posted about a workshop the PSF sponsored given by Geek Girls Carrots. Since then, I've been in touch with organizer, Zuzanna Podwińska, who provided the following additional information. 
Geek Girls Carrots is a community of women who are interested in IT and new technologies. Our goal is to encourage women to take up IT-related careers, and to promote women who already work in the field.
To achieve this, we organize regular meet-ups as well as various coding workshops. At each meet-up, we have a speaker - usually a woman who works with new technologies - and a networking session, which is when members of the community get to know each other and inspire each other. People who come to our meetings are from various walks of life - some of them professionals, some considering changing their career paths, some are just hobbyists. What connects them all is love for new technologies.
Our community was started by Kamila Sidor and Kamila Stępniowska in Warsaw, Poland in 2011 and it has been rapidly growing ever since. At this point, we organize meet-ups in 22 cities all over the world - mostly in Poland, but also in places such as Berlin, London, Seattle, or New York City. The organizing team is now 71 people and growing.
Besides the meet-ups, we organize coding workshops, such as the Django Carrots workshops which you supported. So far in Warsaw we have had five editions of Django Carrots and 212 people - attendees and mentors - have participated since the first edition.
Every week, two coding workshops, Code Carrots Python and Code Carrots JavaScript, take place in Warsaw.There is also a 6-week-long coding workshop in Seattle.
Attendees of our programming workshops are very often people who want to switch career paths to a more technical, IT-oriented one. Although sometimes they are just curious to see what programming is all about. Most of our workshops are for beginners. We meet at offices and co-working spaces made available to us by our partners.
What really keeps us going is the stories of women who started their programming adventure with us and have since become professional developers. My personal favourite is the story of Gosia, who, as a psychology graduate, participated in the 3rd edition of Django Carrots and quickly realized programming is the thing she wants to do. She decided to change her career path completely and today not only is she a professional developer, but she also teaches JavaScript at our weekly Code Carrots course. In fact, the other female Code Carrots JS mentor also started programming with us.
You can find more information about Geek Girls Carrots at Geek Girls Carrots.
And the really exciting news is that Geek Girls are bringing a Django Carrots workshop to PyCon 2015 in Montreal! If you haven't signed up yet, there's still time: Django Carrots Workshop. Looking forward to meeting Zuzanna and her group in Montreal.