Georgia Tech’s Computing in Python I Course

edited June 14, 2023

In my early days of learning Python, I thought it was all about mastering syntax and memorizing commands. Then, I encountered my first bug - a misplaced colon that turned my elegant code into gibberish. I soon realized that Python isn’t just a language; it’s a test of patience, a humbling journey where a tiny punctuation mark can wield immense power!

Thankfully Georgia Tech released a free beginner-friendly series of courses that unpacks Python programming in a digestible and engaging way: Introduction to Python Programming.

This post will go over the first course in the series called Computing in Python I: Fundamentals and Procedural Programming. It not only introduces students to Python syntax and procedural programming, but also fosters computational thinking and problem-solving skills, vital tools for any budding programmer.

Python Why Bother?

Python is often hailed as the Swiss Army Knife of programming languages, thanks to its ability to tackle almost any task in the tech world. Its popularity stems from its simplicity, readability, and vast standard library. Whether you’re developing a web application, analyzing data, automating tasks, or venturing into artificial intelligence, Python is ready to lend a hand.

Don’t be fooled, Python’s name isn’t inspired by the slithering reptile but by the British comedy troupe ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’. That’s right, in the world of programming, Python stands for a good laugh, not a boa constrictor!

Python, with its clean syntax and English-like commands, is like the friendly neighbor of programming languages, always there to ease newcomers into the coding world. Its emphasis on readability reduces the learning curve, making it less about wrestling with complex syntax and more about learning to think like a programmer. Plus, Python’s wide application across diverse fields offers a gratifying sense of “coding something useful” right from the get-go!

What is Procedural Programming?

Procedural programming is like a cooking recipe for your computer; it’s a coding approach based on step-by-step instructions. You divide your program into procedures, also known as functions or routines, that each perform a specific task. For instance, in a coffee machine program, you might have procedures for adding water, heating up, adding coffee, and pouring into a cup. This ‘do this, then this, and then that’ approach makes your code easy to read, debug, and maintain.

Think of procedural programming like assembling IKEA furniture. You’ve got your instructions (code), various parts (functions), and, if you’re lucky, all the screws (variables). You follow the manual step by step, assembling pieces in a specific order, and voila! Just pray you don’t end up with an extra ‘screw’ (unforeseen bug) that leaves your creation (program) wobbly!

Another way to think of it is procedural programming in Python is like your car’s GPS; it helps you navigate through the maze of code. By breaking down complex programs into manageable chunks (functions), it makes code easier to understand, debug, and maintain. Just as your GPS guides you to your destination, procedural programming guides your code execution, ensuring you don’t end up in the wilderness of endless bugs and spaghetti code.

Delving into the Course

Georgia Tech’s Computing in Python I: Fundamentals and Procedural Programming is designed to transform coding novices into confident Python programmers. The course offers a comprehensive tour of Python basics, from variables, data types, and operators to control flow and functions. It goes beyond teaching Python syntax and emphasizes procedural programming and computational thinking, laying a solid foundation for more advanced programming concepts. In essence, it’s your first step into the exhilarating world of Python programming.

It emphasizes problem-solving and computational thinking, equipping students with invaluable skills. They learn to approach challenges like detectives, breaking them down into smaller, manageable pieces and creatively solving them using the tools Python provides. It’s like being handed a magnifying glass and a detective hat, ready to tackle coding mysteries and unravel the secrets of elegant solutions.

Course Content

I’m currently enrolled in this course and will update this post with more information as I make my way through each module.

Chapter 1.1: Computing

The main goal of this course is not only to teach you the mechanics of writing code but also to immerse you in a vibrant community that speaks the language of code. This chapter goes over basic terminology and concepts like Input and Output, Compiling and Running, and Command-line vs GUI. Learning programming is akin to learning a new language – it’s about grasping the grammar, syntax, and nuances of communication.

Python being an interpreted language means that errors may lie dormant until we bravely attempt to run our code. It’s like discovering hidden landmines while venturing through uncharted territory. However, this flexibility also allows for rapid development and experimentation.

We learn that programming principles are remarkably transferable. Diving into your second language becomes significantly easier once you’ve grasped the fundamentals of your first one. This chapter compares Python to some other languages to give you a broad view of the programming language landscape.

Chapter 1.2: Programming

The Programming Flow

In this chapter we learn that programming is a lively tango, an iterative process where you write, test, and revise your code. Imagine your first tryst with Python being as simple as saying “hello world”. Through the classic print statement, you make the computer echo your greeting back to you, and voila! You’ve written your first program. But don’t be fooled, the journey has just begun.

Learning programming isn’t about dashing off an entire epic in one go. You wouldn’t guzzle down a whole feast without tasting it, would you? Likewise, you wouldn’t complete a Picasso masterpiece without taking a step back, squinting your eyes, and evaluating your progress. In programming, we adopt the same philosophy, preferring to mold our creations bit by bit, testing, and retesting every morsel of code to ensure it’s cooked to perfection.

But not all coding languages are built the same, and this chapter unravels the intriguing differences between static (compiled) and dynamic (interpreted) languages. Think of static languages as that meticulous chef who prepares everything beforehand, making sure each ingredient is just right. On the other hand, dynamic languages prefer to season the dish as it’s cooking, allowing for spontaneous flavor adjustments along the way.

Errors in your code? Don’t sweat it. They’re more common than spilled coffee in a bustling café. Much like a good detective novel, you’ll learn how to look for the signs, understand the clues, and solve the mysteries of these digital misdemeanors. More techniques for dealing with errors are covered in the next chapter on debugging.