Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Software Carpentry in Brisbane

Brisbane Software Carpentry sputtered into life some time in 2014 when scattered local supporters finally met and began to form a group. Having heard about the initiative via Twitter, I managed to contact Nathan Watson-Haigh who got me on to the Aus/NZ mailing list. Then I met Philipp Bayer (now in Perth) and we started planning our first workshop at The University of Queensland. PyCon Australia was coming up in Brisbane and we were able to get Damien Irving from Melbourne and Tim McNamara from New Zealand to teach for us as they were in town for that. So we ran our first ever Software Carpentry workshop with Python at UQ in July 2014.

Helpers included Nick Coghlan and Dan Callaghan from RedHat, and Kaitao Lai and Michal Lorenc from Dave Edwards’ bioinformatics group.

In February 2015, five Brisbaneites – Amanda Miotto, Sam Hames, Areej Al-Sheikh, Mitch Stanton-Cook and Paula Andrea Martinez - went to Software Carpentry instructor training in Melbourne.

Areej had been an attendee at the July 2014 workshop, along with Darya Vanichkina. Both were keen to train as instructors. Darya and I trained online with Greg Wilson during early 2015, so Brisbane was suddenly rich in instructors.

Areej, Mitch, Paula, Sam and I ran a Python bootcamp in July 2015, and there was a second one in late September. Paula and Sam flew to Townsville in Queensland later that same week to run an inaugural R bootcamp there, and four attendees there registered interest in instructor training.

We were lucky to have the services of Python wizard Caleb Hattingh at both the July and September workshops. Heidi Perrett and Kim Keogh from Griffith University helped at the September workshop, and liked it so much they decided to train as instructors.

Aleksandra Pawlik ran instructor training for 20 people in Brisbane in January 2016, so our instructor pool has grown a little bigger, though not by 20. Many of the attendees were from other states (NSW, ACT) – and one, Selene Fernandez Valverde, has gone on to trailblaze Software Carpentry in Mexico. However, in addition to Heidi and Kim, we now have Leah Roberts, Nouri Ben Zakour and Anup Shah, though we will lose Nouri to a research job in Sydney soon (boo hoo). We have already said goodbye to Darya who has moved to Sydney for a job.

Sam, Paula and I taught an R bootcamp at the Translational Research Institute late last year, and then ran concurrent Python and R bootcamps at the fabulously successful Brisbane Research Bazaar in February, where many of our new instructors got their first chance to teach.

Amanda, Kim and I taught an R bootcamp in April for Queensland government staff in the Department of Science, IT and Innovation. A week later, the first ever Software Carpentry bootcamp was run at Griffith University. Our next scheduled workshop is the R bootcamp on 11-12 July, a tie-in for the UQ Winter School in Mathematical and Computational Biology.

Areej Al-Sheikh taught Software Carpentry in Bali last year, and Mitch Stanton-Cook taught Software Carpentry in Nanning in China. Sam taught five workshops in his first year since certifying as an instructor, flying to Adelaide and other places to spread the word. Paula is off to Darwin next to run a Data Carpentry class, since she, Sam and I have all certified as Data Carpentry instructors as well.

Tim Dettrick has been a great supporter for Brisbane Software Carpentry, letting us use his DIT4C cloud option for workshops. This gets around knotty installation problems which really helps when many attendees bring Windows laptops over which they have no admin rights.

Hacky Hours, informal get togethers where people can brush up on skills, or follow up on questions after Software Carpentry workshops, are held weekly at both UQ and Griffith University. We hope to extend these to other universities soon, just as we plan to run Software Carpentry workshops at other Queensland universities.

Workshops are a fertile recruiting ground for new instructors and helpers. Four people expressed interest in instructor training after the July 2015 workshop, while six wanted to train after September’s workshop.

The Brisbane Software Carpentry community welcomes newcomers. Please get in touch if you want to come to a workshop, or find out about upcoming events. Or come to a Hacky Hour.

Our next get together will probably be a welcome for Steering Committee member Kate Hertweck, in town for a fortnight with Sugar Research Australia. Watch Twitter for details of her talk on 17 May.

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