Training Review: Python Boot Camp

A quick review of an extremely affordable and effective crash course on Python programming.

Overview

In May, 2010, I attended a three-day training course on the Python programming language. The course, entitled “The Penn State Mini-PyCamp 2010,” was held at the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, and taught by Chris Calloway, an expert Python developer and esteemed member of the Plone Foundation and the Triangle Zope and Python Users Group (TriZPUG) in North Carolina.

Scope

Mr. Calloway’s Mini-PyCamp was one course offering among a series of optional, value-added training sessions for those who attended the subsequent Plone Symposium East 2010 at the end of the same week, also hosted by Penn State.

Mr. Calloway’s style of teaching engulfs the student in the learning experience by example, demands one’s full attention, and offers hints of influence by Joel Burton, another master “Plonista” and training guru; indeed, more than once throughout his tutorials, Mr. Calloway stopped and paid reverence to Mr. Burton, quoting a valuable tidbit of information on Python, Plone, or on the art of teaching, to be passed along to his eager students.

The course is a head-first jump into Python programming, which includes working code examples from start to finish at all stops along the way.  Mr. Calloway gets the student thinking about problems and situations before explaining how to attack them, and then does so thoroughly, with in-depth explanations, all the background information you could possibly imagine, an interpretation of the Pythonic method of coding, and tips and tricks for aspiring Python developers, including frameworks, utilities, and other resources.

Mr. Calloway’s training slides are constantly updated and maintained online.

The TriZPUG group also keeps an amazing collection of Python resources for anyone ranging from the pure beginner to the unrivaled master.

Conclusion

In terms of value and content, and in keeping with the traditions of Plone and of open-source software in general, this course was one of the best I’ve taken to date.  This mini-version of the full PyCamp would be great for existing programmers and those already familiar with coding in another language, in order to gain an overview of Python syntax and best practices.  If you’re not a programmer by trade, or you’re just getting into coding, you’ll want to ensure that you get the entire one-week of PyCamp, as this trimmed-down, three-day version of the course may move at a bit faster pace that you’d like and tends to skip over some concepts and topics that new coders might find useful.

Personal note-to-self: don’t question Chris about his interpretation of the meaning of “orthogonal”, or how to say the word “heterogeneous”. 😉

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