Software Carpentry bootcamp at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande
At the begin of this week Software Carpentry ran the first workshop at Latin America. This is a review of the workshop that took place at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG) due the hard work of Laboratório de Estatística Ambiental (mainly Professor Fernando de Pol Mayer and Professor Paul Gerhard Kinas).
Thanks to all that work to this workshop be possible. Special thanks to Marcos (our local helper) and Arliss Collins, from Software Carpentry.
The next place that Software Carpentry need to run a workshop is Antarctica. =)
The topics scheduled to be teach at the workshop was shell, R and Git. It had 22 attendees, most of then from biology related fields and working with Mayer or Kinas. I love meet Mayer and Kinas, both R advertisers, in person and all the attendees.
In general, the attendees enjoy the workshop. In the rest of this blog post I will cover some of the problems that we had.
The biggest problem: internet connection
The big problem at this workshop was the lack of internet connection since it was very unstable. We try our best to try solve the internet problem, without much success, and running the workshop without internet connection.
Lot of new information in a small time space
Many students complained about that we presented lot of new information in only a few hours. Software Carpentry knows this problem:
“We have therefore been cutting back on material rather than expanding it: (...)”
If you know any topic that we can drop please let us know.
Instructors type too fast
Some students complained, mostly at the shell and git lessons, that the instructors typed too fast and was hard to keep track of what was done.
I don’t believe that type slow will help because IMHO the problem is that find the input and output at the shell isn’t easy to novices. If we have a configuration file for Bash to make it emulate some of IPython features like “In” and “Out” comments and commands counts students could follow the lessons more easily.
 $ echo hello
 $ echo world
Motivate students to learn basic shell commands when they spend all their life with graphic users interfaces and Windows is a little hard.
Use examples based on HPC (high power computation) isn’t great because many students will never use this type of machine. And use exemples with R (or Python) isn’t good because we didn’t teach it yet.
Fernando’s lesson about R was awesome. We used RStudio as IDE for R and Fernando ask students to
- download his lesson,
- open it at RStudio and
- running the lines after he explain it.
AFAIK all students follow the lesson without big problems. The small issues was
- troubles due missing ), ] and } and
- issues when forgot to run some previous line.
We start the Git lesson with a demo of using GitHub to collaborating (at this point we could use the internet connection). After the quickly demo we cover the offline git commands and explain the Git concepts.
After the first part of the Git lessons the internet connection was very unstable (load GitHub was difficult and took many seconds to show a error). We try to emulate GitHub but we notice that it was difficult and students could got an bad impression so we informed the attendees about the problems, that we prefer stop at this point and Fernando will schedule another try to teach the part of the lesson that we didn’t teach.
The attendees loved GitHub stickers. Software Carpentry also send some but they didn’t arrive in time.