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Report from SGCI's Summer Coding Institute for Students

By Nayiri Mullinix and Jeff Wood

This summer, SGCI offered a four-week Coding Institute. The Institute, which is focused on gateway development for undergraduate students, covers the core skills needed to be productive in the design and maintenance of science gateways. Presented as short tutorials alternated with practical exercises, all instruction was done via live coding.

The Coding Institute took place July 5-31, 2018 on the campus of Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). Ten students participated in the Institute and were led through various workshops which included topics such as Python, R, Jupyter, UNIX Shell, Gateway Architecture, and Ethical Hacking. The instructors who led the Institute were Derek Morris Jr, ECSU Graduate Student, Dr. Julian Allagan, ECSU professor, Dr. Rion Dooley, Texas Advanced Computing Center Research Associate, Gregory Goddard, North Carolina A&T State University Graduate Student, and Dr. Jerome Mitchell, Indiana University Digital Science Center.

The students who participated in the Coding Institute also took part in the Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC) 2018 conference in Pittsburgh, PA., July 22-26, 2018. They attended tutorials, talks, panels, and explored technical content along with the tools and methods used in computational science. The closing event of the conference was the first SGCI Hackathon where students tackled various tasks utilizing an array of languages and tools. The hackathon, which had 280 votes cast for the Viewers Choice Award, ended with an awards ceremony and presentation of certificates.

We heard from some of the students who attended the Coding Institute and wanted to share their experiences, impressions, what they learned, and how they grew. 

Derek Morris, Jr., a master's student in mathematics with a concentration in remote sensing at ECSU who also led portions of the Institute, said:

"I would recommend this Institute to anybody who wants to learn how to code. I learned a variety of things, ranging from how to use a Raspberry Pi for ethical hacking to how RStudio operates. I was also given the opportunity to teach students in attendance the basics of how to code in Python. Those of us who participated in the Coding Institute got to attend the PEARC18 conference and the co-located SGCI-sponsored Hackathon, which I really enjoyed and where I learned both practical and technical skills such as how to use JavaScript in HTML and the importance of working as a team to get through the challenge."

Solomon Gebrhana, a sophomore in computer science at Mississippi Valley State University reported on all that he learned.

"I really learned a lot during the four-week Coding Institute. I was able to learn about things that I was unfamiliar with, such as programming languages like Python and how to analyze data using R Studio. Thanks to the Coding Institute and being given the opportunity to attend PEARC18 and to participate in the SGCI's Hackathon, I was also able to grow my network since I connected with people who can help me build my career in the technology world."

We also heard from Alexis Martin, a junior in computer science at ECSU, who felt that the experience helped her to grow in many ways:

“Being a part of the Coding Institute was an eye-opening experience. This program helped me learn technical skills such as programming in R, Python, Java, and Unix, and also to network with many people from different countries and states. This was my first time away from home and I honestly loved it. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that experience because I have learned so much that will guide and help me in my future career. I have also developed friendships with people that I continue to connect with from time to time. This experience has taught me to not be afraid and to think about the big picture."

SGCI offers a variety of opportunities for students, which you can read about on our Student-Focused Programs page. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on future opportunities and deadlines.