AnIntroductiontoPythonProgrammingLanguageAs a part of the PyCon, an annual event conducted by the Python Developer Community, Sridhar K Sr Vice President at TalentSprint, chats with two masterminds behind the ongoing Python revolution in India, Professor Prabhu Ramachandran from IIT Mumbai and Asokan Pichai, the Head of Learning and Development at TalentSprint. PyCon, innovatively named by combining Python and Conference aims at increasing the usage and augment the development of Python programming language. Pycon India,2014washeldinBangalore.Kenneth Gonsalves is the man behind PyCon India. Kenneth was instrumental in forming the Indian Python Software Society and served as director of the society for the first year. His work and efforts have considerably shaped the community and in his memory the Kenneth Gonsalves Award is instituted to honor and celebrate the efforts of people in popularizing and evangelizing Python language. This trophy for the year 2014 was awarded to Prabhu Ramachandran. He is the alumnus of the IIT Madras, Department of Aerospace engineering and is presently a professor of the same field at IIT Mumbai. When asked about his feeling on achieving this award, Prabhu says, It is an honour to be recognized, especially from an academic perspective as it increases the awareness among the students, thereby helping the goal of Python community by popularizing it. Prabhu was associated with Pycon from the very first conference and wasalsotheKeynoteSpeakerattheconferencesheldinArgentinaandSingapore.In academics, the most commonly used softwares are MATLAB, Mathematica etc. They seem all perfect for the purpose they were designed for but on the flipside there are some limitations too like high costs etc. This is where Python comes into picture. A broad language and open source like Python is very useful to fill these gaps. Speaking about the Scientific Python community, Prabhu says, Python is a broad language and its usage is not just limited to computers. It can be used by the scientific community. The vibrant community of scientists are on the way to create a Scientific Python Ecosystem. The most popular projects in the history of Python like iPython Interpreter, NotebookarefromScientificPythoncommunity,hequotes.Free & Open Source Software for Science and Engineering Education (FOSSEE) project is the initiative of Ministry of Human Resources and Development in India under umbrella of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology. It aims at minimizing the use of commercial tools in academics and improve the educational quality in the country. The goals are set in the view of expensive academic tools like MATLAB etc which be accessed only through purchasing
their licenses. To make the students aware of the open source tools like SciLab, Python whichareusefulincollegeandevenbeyondiswhattheprojectaimsat.Asokan Pichai with his experience as a methodological teacher, mentor and instructor was as a part of this project for 3 years. He mentored the teams, helped in instructional design of the workshop material and also played an advisory role. The unique feature of these materials is that they are Recipientdriven, which means the material enables the trainees to use the concepts immediately after grasping them. They have conducted 30 workshopstocollegesacrossinthecountryincludingprofessorsandstudents.A whole new software project the team is currently working on is called OSCAT, which is the replacement of OrCAD for Electronic Design Automation (EDA). Different groups are dedicated to different branches like the OpenFORM, Simpy, CoinOR optimization toolbox and many others. This huge government funded project aims to increase the useofthisopensourcesoftwarenotjustinsciencebutineducation.Speaking on the impact made by this project on Indian educational system, Prabhu says the team started off with workshops, but the approach seemed restricted. And obvious solution to increase the spread of this project is to launch it online. The FOSSEEprojectafterinitiatingonlinehastakenuptwoinitiatives:
1000Teacher Course which aims at honing the skills of the faculty. Prabhu along with Asokan Pichai and Professor Madhu Belur have successfully trained 1000 teachers in the course Software Engineering for Engineers and Scientists across India at onego. This was semionline course which included live video classes to teachers located at various parts of the country and was supported by the trained coordinators at all trainee locations. After the session, there would be an online chat session for the clarification of doubts. An online assessment tool wasdevelopedtotesttheeffectivenessofthecourse.
Development of learning material which enables selflearning. The main aim is to make the material amiable to the learners. Also, the Spoken Tutorials have reached many students across the country. Lakhs of people are getting trained throughtheonlinecoursesofFOSSEEproject.
A series of international conferences called, SciPy are held all across the world. The US gathering is called SciPy and the Europe variant is EuroScipy. Scipy India was initiated in 2009 and was managed by Prabhu ever since its initiation in 2009. The Scipy India is heldfromDec57thisyear.There is a significant increase in the number of people who are aware of Python and online courses are behind this. SciPyIndia sees good number of interested individuals
from nonIT background too. They explore the opportunities, learn its features and fit themintotheirfieldsgivingaformtotheirideas.On a commercial side, even companies like Enthought have started using it. Enthought is a company which develops Python related toolkits and provides highend training programs in this field. So, FOSSEE provides these classroom trainings which have been very successful because of the availability of highly knowledgeable faculty. But again due to its less approach, an online version was launched. Called as the Training on Demand it can be purchased online. However, the courses are available for free of cost for academic purposes. Prabhu said the course content is not a simple slide show but a congregation of illustrations, graphs. The USP of these courses is that they are provided by scientists and engineers with profound details. The courses that are targetedforspecificcategoriesofscientistsareinpipeline.Facebook: Python Programming Language Is Not Just Limited To Computers says ProfessorPrabhuRamachandranfromIITMumbai