Advanced coding techniques unleashed at the coding summer school for postgrads

The biennial postgraduate coding summer school was jointly hosted by the National Institute for Theoretical Computational Science (NITheCS) and the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The programme is offered at all 26 universities across the country, catering for over 800 students who enrolled.

The CHPC is in its fourteenth year, and the NITheCS is celebrating its sixth year of participating in this event. The two-week programme commenced on Monday, 29 January and concluded on Friday, 9 February. The main objective of the coding summer school was to train researchers across South Africa in the foundations of computational sciences, data science, programming, and high-performance computing (HPC).

A concept paper from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in South Africa served as the catalyst for the collaborative endeavour. The paper explores the likelihood of expanding the NITheCS to become a national Institute for Theoretical and Computational Science.

Furthermore, the students were exposed to interactive tutorials and zoom live streams, with daily sessions that started at 09:30 and ended at 16:00. Forty-one students were hosted by the Centre for Space Research at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences on the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University (NWU). Seventeen students – nine from South Africa and eight from Kenya – were among the 41 students who took part in the University of Leeds-sponsored Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) project. Equipping students with cutting-edge knowledge of radio astronomy to help drive economic development throughout Africa is the kind of initiative that the NWU cherishes being part of.

The Mahikeng Campus of the NWU had 18 students enrolled, while the Vanderbijlpark Campus had seven. Prof James Chibueze, an extraordinary professor; Centre for Space Research at the NWU, believes that the coding summer school was a great boost for postgraduate students.

“This project gave the students excellent hands-on experiments in picking up radio waves from the centre of the universe with radio telescopes. It was also an opportunity to motivate the students to maintain their interest in the field.”

The programme

The registered students studied the foundations of data science and Python throughout the first week, which enabled them to analyse and work with a variety of data sets. “To develop their HPC skills, the students were also introduced to Linux and Bash, and these are skills that are required in the workplace in the 4IR,” says Dr Daniel Moeketsi, senior lecturer at the Centre for Space Research.

To receive a certificate, students must have scored 80% in Week 1 and 60% in Week 2. The following were the primary topics covered in discussions in Week 1:

· Python basics

· Data Visualisation

· Data Analysis

· Data Management

· Bash basics

The second week of enrolment introduced the students to advanced Python programs that covered computational sciences, machine learning and domain-specific subjects. The following were the primary subjects that were covered in Week 2:

· Machine Learning

· Probability Theory and Statistics

The following were some of the additional subjects covered:

· Numerical Computations (Numpy Introduction)

· Computational Chemistry/Material Science

· Common Astronomy software applications (CASA Introduction)

· ODE and Monte Carlo Simulation

The coordinators

Drs Daniel Moeketsi and Katlego Moloto, senior lecturers from the School of Physics and Centre for Space Research, coordinated the CHPC/NITheCS summer programme at the NWU Potchefstroom Campus. The coordinator for the Mahikeng Campus was Mr Ayanda Zungu, a lecturer in the School of Physics. Overseeing the Vanderbijlpark Campus as coordinator was Mr Luke Coetzee, a lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Information Systems.


Rethabile Thubisi, an MSc Astrophysical Sciences postgraduate student, on the Potchefstroom Campus attending the annual CHPC/NITheCS coding summer school.


Working together on the Vanderbijlpark Campus.


Students picked up radio waves from the universe using the table-top radio telescope while attending the DARA project.

Submitted on Wed, 02/14/2024 - 15:45