Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Workshop wrap up from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Last week, Software Carpentry hosted a bootcamp at the Costener's House, a converted monastery owned by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, England. Fifteen participants took part, with experience ranging from "gap year" (about to enter University) to people with years of professional development experience.

One of the things that stood out at this workshop was the more advanced background of many of the participants, which allowed us to be more advanced with the material. The topics that seemed most popular were Software Engineering and Testing. From my perspective, it seemed like the hardest part of the workshop was the exercise we designed for the workshop, which was a scaled down version of the recommendation engine we use as an example in the Matrix Computation portion of our material. We did not use numpy, so placed a greater emphasis on preparing the data for further computation. While it took longer than I anticipated to explain and motivate the exercise, the payoff was that we could use the same problem on day 2 to introduce testing and databases. One of the difficulties in a 2-way workshop is avoiding the feeling of jumping topics every hour, and carrying this example through all of our Python work seemed to help tie the topics together.

Special thanks for Alistair Mills, a project manager in the eScience department at the Lab, for hosting us and recruiting participants. Also, thanks to Stefano Cozzini from the Democritos National Simulation Center for flying in from Trieste to teach version control and software engineering.


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