The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: programming

Looking back: the growth of Python

Since Guido van Rossum first released Python to the public in 1991, it has become one of the fastest growing major programming languages and established itself as the defacto language among varied scientific communities.

Python is particularly valuable to today’s forward-thinking industries and technologies, including data science and machine learning. Its intuitive platform makes it appealing for new programmers, yet it can also serve as a tool for more complex purposes.

Some of the features of Python include:

  • Minimal keywords, simple structure, and a clearly defined syntax
  • Code that is much shorter than former industry-leader JavaScript
  • A broad standard library that is portable and compatible on a number of hardware platforms
  • A mode allowing interactive testing and debugging of pieces of code
  • Tool customization for efficiency using added low-level modules

Master Python Programming

Brandeis GPS offers multiple online courses that teach the programming language specific to certain industries: Python Programming (FinTech), Bioinformatics Scripting and Python Programming (Bioinformatics), and Python for Robotics and AI  (Robotics). All three courses are available for professional development as long as students can demonstrate previous basic experience with a programming language (or undergraduate-level coursework).

Brandeis GPS offers rolling admission to our 12 fully-online master’s degree programs, so you can apply and be accepted at any time. However, we do have recommended deadlines if you are seeking admission for a specific term. The deadline to apply to our Spring 1 session is Wednesday, December 19. You can apply here. Those interested in taking a course who do not yet wish to pursue a full master’s degree can still take up to two online courses without officially enrolling.

To learn more about GPS courses or graduate programs, check out our website or contact gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

GPS honors Vitaly Yurik with Excellence in Service Award

Faces of GPS | Vitaly Yurik

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Vitaly Yurik received this year’s award for Excellence in Service to Students and to the Division, distributed annually at the start of each GPS fall term.

“The recipient of the award will have consistently received high student evaluations and testimonials, and made contributions to the Division through their engagement in school activities and events,” introduced Anne Marando, the executive director of GPS. “The award this year has been made to Vitaly Yurik, who has taught for Graduate Professional Studies since its inception in 1997.”

Anne Marando, Executive Director of GPS, congratulating Dr. Vitaly Yurik.

Anne Marando, Executive Director of GPS, congratulating Dr. Vitaly Yurik

In his 19-year teaching career for GPS, Dr. Yurik has taught 1,590 students in the classroom and online. He has developed and taught 18 different courses, including Advanced Programming in Java, Levels 1, 2, and Expert; Design Patterns; Java Enterprise Programming; Object-Oriented Programming; Web Development Technologies, and many others.

Dr. Yurik consistently receives strong course evaluation ratings and comments from students who express gratitude for his teaching.

“Vitaly is a superb instructor. His material is flawless and he is exceptionally timely on grading,” said one of his former students. “This is very helpful when determining course expectations. I thought the course was great. It dove into EJB and Web services very well. The projects allowed you to apply what you learned. I also found the supplemental material very valuable, as it dove into areas such as how to get the require tools and configure your environment like maven, JBoss, ant, etc.”

Dr. Vitaly Yurik giving his acceptance speech.

Dr. Vitaly Yurik giving his acceptance speech.

Regarding service to the division, Marando shared that Vitaly was among the initial set of faculty who taught Software Engineering courses in the evenings. He helped to shape the curriculum, working with others on the development of new courses needed as our first program expanded.

“In thinking back, I believe he attended just about every on-campus information session held, every faculty meeting at the divisional and program levels, every networking event, and every Commencement,” Marando said.

We are proud to honor Vitaly for his meaningful teaching of our students, and for his contributions to Graduate Professional Studies.

Dr. Vitaly Yurik has been teaching at GPS since its inception in 1997.

Dr. Vitaly Yurik has been teaching at GPS since its inception in 1997.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

 

Standing At The Mean

Sam Halperin  is currently a Programming Instructor at Thinkful. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Science in Software Engineering. He is working on a doctorate in Computer Science, and also blogs at www.samhalperin.com

Experimentation enabled by advances in low-cost consumer virtual reality hardware and software.

A few months ago, after a long hacking session with a genetic algorithm (an algorithm that evolves a solution from “chromosomes” over time),Pic1 Unity Game Engine (a 3D video game engine) and an Oculus Rift immersive display, I had what I think is a unique experience:   Creating a data set with the GA, writing a renderer that transformed the data into geometry, hues and color values, and piping the output to a head mounted display, I was able to don the goggles and somewhat literally walk around and stand at the mean of the data set and look around.  For me, this view into the data was a transformative personal experience, if not a scientifically valid approach to understanding data.

Weeks later a second experiment emerged, this time using sensor data attached to a stationary bicycle to drive the view-camera in a virtual environment.   This apparatus had been part of a somewhat Quixotic quest for a virtual reality based active gaming Sampost2experience.  Once implemented, it represented the faintest surface scratch into the vast requirements of art, engineering, sound, theatre and animation that actually make up a production game, but a uniquely satisfying experiment.

The most recent experiment in this set leveraged design training and demonstrated the architectural visualization pipeline from consumer-grade modeller (SketchUp) to virtual reality experience.  This product, like the other two, was also the “first 20%” of effort, (see The Pareto Principle), but uniquely satisfying. The video from the work has been retweeted many times and had over 1800 views since it has been up, and I have received numerous requests for collaboration on similar projects. (http://youtu.be/mJLK_t0bTYA)

Clearly there is a growing mass movement representing a desire for this type of virtual reality technology.  The defining factor in my experience thougsampic3h, as differs from virtual reality experimentation in the past, was that this work didn’t require access to a university
lab, defense contractor or space agency. This access is possible due to a sea change in VR technology driven by the release of the Oculus Rift Head Mounted Display.

Beginning with the release of the Oculus Rift, and followed closely by other projects, VR technology is beginning to permeate as a consumer level technology.  My bike-vr project is actually one of a few similar experiments documented in the various online communities surrounding the technology.  There is a growing community of VR hackers (perhaps a better term is maker) throughout the world, and the level of experimentation has grown exponentially.

My involvement in this work is only beginning, but I am tremendously optimistic that the technology itself represents a positive force for our ability to visualize problems, to communicate with each other, and to be present in environments that we wouldn’t normally be able to experience — across history, geography, scale and any other limits.

Question: What is the value of “being present” and experiencing virtual environments in this way?  What is the value of “standing at the mean”, and how does it differ from viewing a place, a time or a dataset on a traditional computer monitor?  What are the drawbacks?

Answer: The experience of presence with this type of display is so powerful that it can actually make the viewer nauseous, experiencing a sort of simulator sickness approaching seasickness.   At the same time, intelligently engineered virtual environments, built with this in mind can fool the brain in a more positive direction, producing joy, fright, sadness, even the perception of temperature changes.  This is not an experience that is common to interaction with a smartphone or tablet.

Current VR work of interest is quite vibrant and diverse, spanning topics such as “redirected walking” techniques for navigating large virtual environments by walking around small laboratories[1], the study of “oculesics”, where eye movements are tracked and communicated across networks to enhance communication[2], and the exploration of very large datasets using large laboratory installations ringed by huge arrays of displays[3].

See Also

  • [1] Suma, E. A., Bruder, G., Steinicke, F., Krum, D. M., & Bolas, M. (2012). A taxonomy for deploying redirection techniques in immersive virtual environments. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), 2012 IEEE, 43–46. doi:10.1109/VR.2012.6180877
  • [2] Steptoe, W., Wolff, R., Murgia, A., Guimaraes, E., Rae, J., Sharkey, P., … & Steed, A. (2008, November). Eye-tracking for avatar eye-gaze and interactional analysis in immersive collaborative virtual environments. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (pp. 197-200). ACM.
  • [3] Petkov, K., Papadopoulos, C., & Kaufman, A. E. (2013). Visual exploration of the infinite canvas. Virtual Reality (VR), 2013 IEEE, 11–14. doi:10.1109/VR.2013.6549349

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