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Posts from the ‘Teaching’ Category

Global Code

Global Code is a charitable startup based in the UK.

Every year, we take the world’s best programmers, teachers and volunteers to universities in Ghana, West Africa.

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Guest post: Miriam Darteh, Global Coder

Roses are red, lilies are white, and so is Global Code perfectly fit for summer.

When we talk about summer, the beaches, the movies, your  bed and so many relaxing moments come in mind but with my experience here at global code, Global Code should be made a prerequisite for any one who wants to learn IT.

I heard about this camp via an IT WhatsApp thread and I applied, I hadn’t seen a raspberry pi before and I was very intrigued that I was going to see and own one.

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Guest Post: Emerald Adjei

I missed about five calls. I almost missed the opportunity to meet amazing people. I had seen the number calling countless times but I told myself I can’t pick that call, cos I was ‘busy’.

The number kept calling so I decided to pick one evening. “Is this Emerald Adjei?”, the voice asked. I replied. “This is Ibrahim from Global Summer of Code, I was calling to confirm your attendance of the program and to find out if you would need accommodation. My huge eyes almost fell out of their sockets. I screamed. This was a free program and now free accommodation? Of course, count me in. 💪🏾

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2018 Program wrapup

Congratulations to our 75 graduates!

The Second Global Code Summer Program closed today in Koforidua, Accra and Cape Coast. 75 students were taught by 13 volunteers over 3 weeks: Linux, Python programming, MQTT, electronics – with a bit of databases and Docker thrown in for good measure.

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First week: Done

We’ve just finished week 1 of our Summer program here in Ghana, so it’s time to take stock and reflect on what we’ve achieved.

Numbers

Firstly, this program is much bigger than last year. Student numbers fluctuated in the first half of the week for a number of reasons: a public holiday on the Monday that we valiantly taught through; another Summer Camp that delayed the start of Global Code for some students, and a couple of no-shows who saw their friends having fun and came along on the Tuesday or Wednesday.

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#GC2018

One week until the second Global Code Summer Program kicks off, and we’re making our final preparations to make sure it all goes smoothly!

Local GC staffer Ibrahim has been working closely with out university contacts at Koforidua Tech, Cape Coast and UG Legon to prep our teaching areas and staff accommodation,

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2018 Applications

Great news – applications for the Global Code Summer Program 2018 are open!

We’ll teach Linux on the Raspberry Pi, Python, internet and IoT technologies, and electronics. After the program finishes, we’ll give you the Raspberry Pi as a gift.

It’s a three week program running five days a week, from July 2-20. Class is from 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm.

This is our second year, and we’re growing! This year, as well as KTU, we’ll be running the program at Cape Coast University and the University of Ghana!

Applications are welcome from all students at KTU, UCC and UG who will start their final year of a programming course in September. Female applicants will be given free accommodation on-campus, thanks to our university hosts. To apply, simply fill in the form here: https://goo.gl/hiJg9S

For more information, contact sam@globalcode.org.uk or call Ibrahim on +233 24 490 5148.

Positive changes

Last year we taught 18 students, only two of whom were women. Our aim is 50% so that was pretty bad. But I think that if you’ve got the right attitude and you’re honestly trying hard to do the right thing, a setback like this shouldn’t stop you from moving forward.

In other words, we ran the 2017 Global Code program knowing we’d have to work harder next year, which is where we are.

In 2017 we accepted 8 women (all the female applicants) to the program. On day 1 only two of them turned up. I asked Josh to approach the others and ask if they’d consider joining class, but none did.

After the program ended, I asked Josh to approach those applicants again and see if there was anything about the program we could change to make it more appealing to women: to carefully find out if we’d done anything wrong.

The answers can be grouped into three:

  • The applicants had chores at home that couldn’t be left undone.
  • The applicants weren’t sure what time of day the program would be running.
  • The applicants weren’t sure they could find safe accommodation for the program.

Ultimately, there’s not a lot we can do about the first issue. People have responsibilities and were asking for a commitment to fifteen days of a students summer holidays; that’s a big ask.

The second issue is easy to fix: we put the class times on our advertising. We work 9-12 and 1-4. We don’t let anyone stay in class over lunch or after the end of the day, so people are free to leave and there’s no preferential treatment for those whose schedules are more flexible. And we don’t assign homework.

Finally, to solve the third issue we approached our host universities and asked them to provide free on campus accommodation for our female students. I’m very grateful that they all graciously accepted, and I’d like to thank the faculty of KTU, UCC and UG for so kindly accommodating (literally!) our female applicants.

Applications are still coming in and we hope that 2018 is our first program with gender parity amongst our students.

Issues we’re still working on:

  • Currently 25% of our volunteer staff are women. We’re actively recruiting women and PoC staff for next year and working on funding their trip (~£2k each)
  • Last year the tshirts we gave to students were pretty crummy. We’re working with a Ghanaian textiles importer to get good quality brandable apparel from a Californian supplier.
  • I just bought 13 return flights to Ghana, I’m hoping to make Global Code carbon neutral in 2019
  • We give each student a Raspberry Pi 3B to use in class and let them take it as a gift when the program is over. It’s got an HDMI port so not many of our students are able to use them at home – again, we checked. So next year I’m hoping to add an HDMI/VGA adapter to our hardware buy.

Guest Post: A Week (and beyond) with a Raspberry Pi 3

(In this post, Ghanaian developer and Global Coder Rexford Nkansah gives us his hot take on the Global Code 2017 Summer Programme. Thanks Rexford!)

The first time I saw a Raspberry Pi was about three months ago. It was during my interview with Barnabas, who is into Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. Barnabas shared some of his endeavours and projects, of which some of his works got him to represent Ghana in Dubai recently. More on that later.

On the very same day, I got to see an Arduino board too. Pretty fascinating devices. Their potential and the possibilities they come with, almost infinite!

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Rexford Nkansah

In all, I did not get to play with one practically until the Tech Leads Ghana Summer Program 2017 in collaboration with IoT Africa. The chance I had to firsthand, get myself dirty with the Raspberry Pi was a truly inspiring experience.

For the most part, the Summer program was more of a refresher course for me, as I spend many hours a week DevOps’ing. It was just a ball in my court! Heck, I am a Web Developer too.

However, the part that got me excited more was the Raspberry Pi experience and here, I share my experience below.

Understanding GPIO through use

Our first attempt at practically doing something ‘useful’ (turn on a LED bulb), was a success. As fundamental as it seemed, it opened my eyes to the possibilities. I wasn’t alone though.

I could see the faces of some 20 individuals who took part in the program cheer up, and light bulbs go on in their minds.

Getting the LED to light also ‘led’ to the understanding of what the breadboard is designed to accomplish. Took a while to understand the rows and columns and how they play integral way in forming circuits, circuits that get data signals from the GPIO pins to instruct whatever the input or output is.

General-purpose input/output (GPIO)

As we moved on to build slightly more complex setups meant the full potentials of the Raspberry Pi kept uncovering. When we threw in a button, which when pressed, lit up the LED bulb meant whatever the program was taking us through was hitting home right and solid.

As chaotic the wiring seemed at first, tracing the input points and where they ended up (the Ground (GND)), gave a clearer picture.

Before I went into the course, I had no experience related to Raspberry Pi’s, no ever thought I would one day be IoT’ing. Yet, there I was, setting triggers and lighting up LEDs, to even triggering sending of emails via If This Then That (IFTTT) services.

Speaking of sending emails, since Python is my go-to programming language for many of my web development activities (cough cough, Django), the existence of a fully featured and rich API for communicating with the Raspberry Pi was a relief.

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Rexford (center) with John from Rancard, and our Tech Leads star Josh Kumi

Icing on the Cake with Python GPIOZero

Having 20-pair GPIO pins that one could use to take input with or send signals out from is nice! What is even more amazing is the ease one could programmatically control.

GPIOZero made programming around feedback and signals sensors and input devices connected to the GPIO pins simple and streamlined.

In all, I realized I could throw the GPIOZero package into my usual Django applications, giving an interface to controls I have prepared on my Raspberry Pi. Thus the on and off button could be wired into an interface over the web, allowing an arbitrary user to turn on or off the LED light from anywhere in the world. Pretty handy!

Personal Customizations

So recently, I switched to using Mate Desktop full time, when news of Ubuntu switching to Gnome dropped. Therefore, I had to run a few changes to bring my Raspberry Pi to my taste, UI-tically and familiarity-wise. Forgive my English!

The Raspbian OS didn’t work as functional as I expected. The Mate Desktop for Arm architecture was the savior.

Each and every participant of the Tech Leads Ghana summer program took home, each a Raspberry Pi Model 3 and its related accessories, except a Monitor. Of course, I didn’t expect to carry home a monitor.

A big thank you to Sam Moorhouse, our instructor for the Summer Program for such a wonderful gift.

The customizations I applied to my Raspberry Pi are available on the Raspberry Pi website. Here is mine:

  • Installed a brand new shiny Mate Desktop 16.04 LTS on my Raspberry Pi. The experience with Mate Desktop, just smooth!
  • Installed OpenSSHServer, so I could remotely communicate with the Raspberry Pi via SSH (assuming both Raspberry and my machine are on same LAN or WLAN
    • After setting up my SSH, I then threw in VNC, thus without plugging my Raspberry Pi to a monitor, I could still have a GUI, via SSH.
  • Remotely accessing my Raspberry, as long as it is connected to the internet, from anywhere in the world.
    • I went with Dataplicity.

Check out the Remote Access section of the Raspberry Pi documentation to learn more about ways to go about you Raspberry Pi.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this year’s summer program by Tech Lead. Hopefully, next year’s event will be much more interesting and educative, even more.

Kudos to the Tech Leads Ghana team, and IoT in Africa.


Thanks again, Rexford! You can follow his work here. Global Code returns to Ghana in July 2018. Read more about our work or buy a Raspberry Pi as a gift to a student. Thanks!

Guest Post: My Experience at the Global Code Summer Programme

(Our first programme was called “IoT in Africa” In this post, Global Coder Synvalnus Gatorwu describes his experiences on our 2017 Summer Programme)

It began as a whatsapp invite, and suddenly I felt an excitement to attend.

MY FIRST IMPRESSION

The impression I had upon entering the lab on a Monday morning was one of mixed feelings. I didn’t know what to expect. What I saw however raised my hopes that it was going to be practical, and not one of those talk shops.

As a science student during my O’level and A’level days, the lab is not a strange place to me, but an IT lab certainly is.

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Synvalnus Gatorwu

The next observation I made was our tutor. He was a British and obviously an experienced IT personality. I concluded that the next three weeks was going to be one of those serious intellectual times in my life, and I wasn’t wrong, it was a life changing one.

Initially, I had just come on the first day to see if this was something worth my time. After what I saw upon entering the lab, I changed my status to one of “I am really going to cancel all appointments and devote these three weeks to this”

This is how Rexford Nkansah, a web developer who was with us described Sam Moorhouse, our tutor:

The Instructor Sam Moorhouse, the instructor for the 3-week summer program is an industry expert experienced in working on real-world applications using battle-tested platforms and or tools in real-world organizations.

Although his experience and knowledge are deep, Sam’s teaching skills allow him to draw the students out into the bare open with simple-to- understand expressions and explanations. I personally enjoyed his lectures and hands-on assistance.

For me, in one sentence, he is an experienced teacher who knows how to teach the most complex of things in the simplest of ways.

Week One.

The first week of the program was exciting. We were introduced to intriguing subjects that got the entire class yearning for more. For someone like me, it was an eye-opener to be introduced to Internet of things, the Raspberry Pi, and more.

We started with the basics of Python, linux, went through a bit computing and networking fundamentals, using the Raspberry Pi, and IoT programming using programmable web and the particle IoT platform. All these are were new to me, and as a broadcast journalist, a statistics graduate and public health student, I asked myself “how come I didn’t know all these”

The entire program was so practical, there was hardly any lesson that didn’t involve hands-on, we got to apply everything we studied, and immediately appreciated their use in the real world.

The biggest surprise was the introduction to the Raspberry Pi, which I hadn’t seen before, its usage was an eye opener.

Week two

Began with another exciting Monday as we were informed of our trip to Accra on Thursday. Flask, was our first lesson in week two, and I was so elated to have seen how it works.

Heroku as another joy as we deployed the application and saw it work. The MQTT was also a delight to operate.

Need I state that, these are all new to me, unlike some of the students who already know of some of these, for me, it was a joy because I had not heard of these before.

Git and Github become a sensation among all the students. ‘git add’, ‘git commit’, and ‘git push’ probably will be the last any student of the program would forget. These terms became the mantra of the entire program.

Behold, it was Thursday, and time for the trip.

I had to finish up a meeting at the National Communications Authority Head office, yet I
couldn’t miss such a glorious opportunity to see real software engineers at work. I dashed to Accra by 5am, got my work done with the officer, and met up with the team.

My first reaction was to bring my journalistic prowess by interviewing Joshua Kumi, the brain behind Tech Leads and Sam’s man on the ground. The interview was live on facebook.

I was yet to appreciate the beauty of the IoT in Africa and Tech Leads T-Shirts, when I saw students in the bus, it was such a beauty.

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Synvalnus models our tee-shirts #bluesteel

Our first stop was at Rancard.

For me, it was like magic, starting from Ghana, they have spread their tentacles across the globe. And it was time for me to ask questions on how it was done, making it possible for text messages to be sent across platforms in real time, and the volume of it was amazing.

The “control room” my own term to describe where their work was being monitored was
awesome. At least, it demystified my thinking on how this “magic” works.

Our next stop was at hubtel

I must say, we had a lot of detail in hubtel because the presentations were a number, and then we had the opportunity to be taken round their various departments, unlike rancard where we were a bit restricted, hubtel gave us a treat, and for the first time, I saw computers with such giant screens.

We interacted with some of the engineers who were busily “coding” and who left their work to interact with us. I couldn’t resist the temptation of touching the screens to have a feel. I, for the first time, saw how and where phone applications are tested before released into the market.

I must confess, some of the terminologies used were new to me, and as a journalist, I came home to do a lot of homework.

Just before we left, we were showed the only laptop that was used to start the company an old dell computer. Lesson, little beginnings can lead to great ends if only one doesn’t give up.

The icing on the cake for me was a student from a country in the western world who had come to do internship, and to think that Ghana would have a company that would attract such was for me very hopeful of Africa’s potential.

On the Friday of the second week, Sam Moorhouse led us to choose our projects.

This was the most exciting time of the week, we all went home thinking and dreaming of our projects.

The week was an excited one as we all completed our projects ahead of time for the scheduled exhibition on Friday.

This is how a Senior Web Developer who spent time with us, Rexford Nkansah put it.

“Controlling an LED with a button press through the Raspberry Pi General-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins with the above code was fun.

As the LED goes on, the endless possibilities achievable with the Raspberry Pi kept popping up in our heads. Each nod by a student meant a light bulb in their mind came on. The experience was engaging and fun.

Writing basic Python code to turn our idea (turn on a light bulb by button press) into reality (light actually turned on) was priceless. As trivial as it seemed, the feeling and joy such an experience carried were more than words could describe.

Our understanding of the use of the breadboard meant we could build complex circuits using different sensors to achieve varied results. A firm grasp of the fundamentals was all that was needed, and the ideas started flowing.”

The IFTTT

The If This Then That event open source function was simply scintillating. In combination with our Raspberry Pi functionality, we could get emails sent after a button press.

Think of a panic button for your shop. Or the panic ‘word’, where a sensor would pick up your voice, and trigger an event.

In short, our ideas run wild. The practical understanding meant, we all took home a strong appreciation for what tech could help us all achieve.

This, was the project my team and I embarked upon, and an application, I am exploring for my website http://www.healthylifegh.com I intend to have publications sent to all social media accounts of my budding organization that specializes in churning out health news from Ghana to the world.

Our project used all we had learned, wrote a code in python, used the If This Then That (IFTTT) function, and then had a circuit in place on our breadboard, in addition to others, connected to a sensor.

When the code is running, this is what the project would do:

The concept is this: When my door bell or button is pressed, check to see if I am around and light a bulb so I would know, there’s someone at the door.

If I am not in, send me an email so I would get to know, there’s someone at my door.

And it did just that.

As a person new to these, I have come to appreciate the world of code, open source applications and electronics.

At the end of the program:

Every student of the Tech Leads Ghana 2017 Summer Program in collaboration with IoT in Africa took home a Raspberry Pi Model 3, a 16 Gig SD Card, a micro USB charger brick and cable, a breadboard and an HDMI cable.

Priceless gift! A big thank you to Sam.

My application of the program is going to help me reach a larger audience than I used to with my health news.

My gift of the Raspberry is going to be used in my newly acquired office.

Thanks to you once again for the great door opened to me into the world of IT.

Koforidua Technical University, where it all happened, will certainly be a place to remember.


Thanks Synvalnus Gatorwu! The Global Code Summer Programme returns to Ghana in July 2018. You can help by getting in touch and buying a Raspberry Pi as a gift to a student. Thanks!