4 & 5 October 2012
Cape Town, South Africa
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Hyperion Development: teaching and promoting Python

Orion Adams

I'm a 23-year-old in my final year of a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. I participated in the founding of Hyperion Development with our now managing director, Riaz Moola, and am actively involved in management, business ventures, promotion and conclusion of contracts.

I am interested in programming and have been attempting to build on the programming skills I acquired in high school, predominantly in Python as I have found it to be user-friendly and effective.

Talk Outline

A talk aimed at introducing our month-old South African-based company, Hyperion Development, to the Python community. Introducing Hyperion Development and our operations such as our free Python teaching programs, our community outreach work, our training of students in research topics and applications using Python. Ways the Python community can get involved with Hyperion and help us work towards building an university student community of Python tutors and learners across South Africa. Structure of the organisation and its non-profit aims and how our tutoring is done online using Dropbox and in person.

Hyperion Development currently works with over 120 students from 5 tertiary institutions across South Africa and is expanding quickly. Our core program focuses on free training in Python for high school and university students as we see a lack of Python and IT exposure in students across South Africa. We have Python courses for those with a background in programming (such as CS students) and those without, and we work with students using Dropbox and also face to face with one on one lessons on university campuses in Durban and Johannesburg. We never charge students for our lessons and the majority of our students are undergraduates. All our training can be done online, part-time, and students take as long as they need and can opt to get help online or in person or a mixture of both.

Hyperion Development currently employs 15 university students (called 'Developers') from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Johannesburg, University of Pennsylvania (US) and the University of Edinburgh (UK) on a part-time basis helping tutor students (both over Dropbox and in person), design courses, program for clients, resolve technical issues and also seek further training opportunities. We are exploring ventures to introduce Python to those without easily accessible computers or Internet. We are associated with JumpStartSA, an organisation which helps support over 3600 learners in 24 disadvantaged schools across South Africa. We are involved in linking private schools in the Durban area to these disadvantaged schools to aid math and science teaching at a primary school level. We are also involved with linking university math departments to these schools to help with the NumberSense math teaching programme through JumpStart.

Our top student learners are also offered paid Python work with some of our clients after they have learnt the relevant skills. We also introduce Django and HTML as a tool for web development as many of our clients request this kind of work.

Our Python courses are also unique because they introduce research topics such as Bioinformatics, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing to students learning Python. With the permission of the University of Edinburgh, we use course materials from existing Edinburgh Artificial Intelligence courses in our Python courses. Our course is specifically based around use of existing Python modules (such as the Python NLTK) to introduce problems from these fields.

We are also involved with training current IT high school teachers at Durban schools to teach the IT grade 11 syllabus (Java) by request of the Department of Education. We are also looking at ways to introduce Python into the high school syllabus and improve the standard of IT teaching in schools in Durban by training teachers and also encouraging schools to keep offering IT as a matric subject.

Our main aims are:

  • To provide free Python training and introduce programming to as many students as possible by keeping the material interesting yet accessible.
  • To provide paid part-time work for undergraduate students in South Africa through tutoring and software development opportunities
  • To introduce research topics in Computer Science/AI to undergraduate and postgraduate students
  • To improve the standard of Science, Math and IT teaching in disadvantaged and resourced schools across South Africa together with JumpStart.
  • To improve the standard of IT teaching in schools in Durban.
  • To establish teams of 'Developers' at each major university in South Africa for the purpose of having a dedicated team of Python programmers on each campus to promote programming, Python and Computer Science in general to undergraduate students.

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