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CHPC/NITheCS Coding Summer School unlocks ‘a realm of possibilities’
Author: NITheCS (media and communication)
Published: 27/02/2024

​From discovering a secret weapon to newly found superpowers, liberating and a game-changer. This is how students who attended the recent Coding Summer School described their introduction to programming languages such as Python, Gitbash and Spyder.

The 14th annual Coding Summer School, hosted by the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Sciences (NITheCS) from 29 January to 9 February 2024, was attended by 580 students from more than 30 higher education institutions in South Africa and Kenya.

Mr Binjamin Barsch, Lead Software Engineer at the CHPC and lead coordinator for the Coding Summer School, said 297 of them qualified for a certificate – an increase of 18% from the previous year's number of graduates.

“It was great to see so many students participating. On our interactive communication medium on the Slack workspace, we had over 6500 messages posted throughout the two weeks," he said.

Barsch also provided some interesting statistics from this year's summer school: Of the 580 students attending 57% was male and 43% female, and 40% MSc students versus 25% PhD students. Most were from the fields of physics (21.6%), chemistry (17%), and biology (16.9%), followed by engineering (9.6%), environmental sciences and geography (9.5%) and the medical sciences (7.23%).

This year students from Northwest University's Vanderbijlpark Campus and Walter Sisulu University also joined for the first time.

Prof. Francesco Pettrucione, interim director of NITHeCS, said the growth of the school is a testament to the hard work of the champions and the keen interest of participants in pursuing excellence in their academic endeavours: “Looking ahead, we are committed to broadening the reach of the Coding Summer School. For the upcoming year, we aim to involve even more students from neighbouring countries, thereby fostering a richer, more diverse educational environment."

Thuthukile Khumalo, data analyst and part-time administrative assistant at NITheCS, says the success of the Coding Summer School depends largely on the support of the 45 champions at each of the participating institutions who organised venues, catering and handled registration. Some of them also gave lectures and presentations.

According to Barsch the Coding Summer School will continue in hybrid format. This means that students can attend the two-week long workshop online or in person at an institution of their choice where they then also have access to online lectures and in-person tutoring.

“The majority of the students found attending in-person to be more effective," he added.

During week one participants learned the fundamentals of Python and data science to enable them to analyse and manipulate various datasets, including an introduction to Linux and Bash. Notes for these lectures were made available in isiXhosa, isiZulu, and Sepedi.

During the second week they were introduced to the software solutions that they might need in their research, with examples ranging from machine learning to bioinformatics, the simulation of chemical systems and the application of Monte Carlo methods.

Below is a selection of quotes from the student's anonymous feedback:

  • "Learning Python felt like unlocking a new realm of possibilities for my research. I'm excited to delve deeper into data manipulation and analysis using the skills gained in week 1."
  • "The introduction to bash scripting was a game-changer for me. It's like I found a secret weapon to tackle repetitive tasks efficiently in my work."
  • "Python and Gitbash have become my dynamic duo for data analysis. I can now navigate through datasets without the hassle of Excel, thanks to the coding summer school."
  • "The guest lectures provided insights that I could immediately share with fellow data science majors in the industry. The centralized learning approach made it all the more impactful."
  • "I never thought I'd appreciate plotting graphs in Python so much! It adds a creative dimension to data visualization that I was missing out on."
  • "The sessions on Linux and Github have expanded my toolkit for efficient research data processing. Now, I feel more comfortable and confident in managing my projects."
  • “Becoming comfortable with Bash and Spyder feels like gaining new superpowers. The integration with Gitbash has streamlined my file management, making my workflow smoother."
  • "The quizzes were a great touch. They challenged me to apply what I learned actively, reinforcing my understanding of Python and Gitbash commands."
  • "I used to rely heavily on Excel for data analysis, but now, after week 1, Python has become my go-to tool. The shift is not just practical; it's liberating."
  • "The coding summer school has turned me into a Python enthusiast. I can't wait to implement what I've learned, especially in the upcoming Streamlit project. Python/Bash is, indeed, awesome!"

The 15th Coding Summer School will take place again next year, same date and same format. Click here for the NITheCS weekly calendar to stay up to date with training and other public events - NITheCS calendar: 26 Feb-3 Mar 2024 (

Click here for a YouTube video with images of participants from the various campuses - Coding Summer School 2024 (