[SciPy-dev] SciPy Foundation

Tommy Grav tgrav@mac....
Sun Aug 2 16:22:54 CDT 2009

On Aug 2, 2009, at 4:44 PM, Neil Martinsen-Burrell wrote:

> This may be an instrumentality on the way to the "Goal of Scipy"
> (whatever that is) but I wanted to mention here the importance of
> reaching students with SciPy.  Software vendors know this: if a  
> student
> learns about a certain type of computing using your software, then  
> they
> are likely to continue using your software throughout their career.
> Matlab has been stupendously good at this sort of marketing in
> engineering schools, where learning Matlab is seen by some as a
> *required* part of the curriculum, due to its industry dominance.
> Apropos of David's point about the relevance of a GUI, I think that in
> addition to the packaging, documentation and communication aspects of
> Joe's plan, an easy-to-install environment for interactive computation
> is important for teaching students with SciPy.  When I taught an
> undergraduate class on Markov chains using numpy and scipy, it was  
> hard
> for students to install scipy.  Once they had it installed, they were
> able to be moderately productive in IDLE, but they missed some of the
> features of IPython (command completion, saved inputs and output).  An
> interactive Python environment that allowed access to documentation,  
> an
> editor and a rich interpreter would have made the uptake much easier  
> for
> students.

I agree with what you are saying, but I don't think scipy is the right  
for this. The scipy package should in my opinion be like numpy, a self
contained package of methods that are frequently used in science and
engineering. In a sense it should provide the applied math. Then one can
have separate packages providing interpreters ala matlab and IDL that  
on top of the scipy package and other more field specific packages. I  
that in thinking of scipy as a replacement for IDL and Matlab the  
project becomes
to broad reaching and it gets harder to get everyone to pull in  
the same direction.

> In the past, Alan has spoken strongly about the importance of the  
> matrix
> class for teaching linear algebra and I want to echo his message about
> the importance of pedagogical usability for the continued adoption of
> the SciPy stack.  Students who start using software in their classes
> will continue using that software throughout their careers,  
> particularly
> so for something such as SciPy which has some significant advantages
> over its better-known competitors.  I think that there is a tendency  
> for
> active researchers to underestimate the importance of
> undergraduate-level learning and I hope that in this discussion, we  
> will
> keep in mind the singular importance of that young audience.

I agree again, but I also think that students should learn how to code  
in Python,
not in Sage/Python(x,y)/Scipy. The more of the core language the  
student learns
the more powerful all the tools become.


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