EBEC Python course enrollment breaks record

Every Boiler Engineer Codes (EBEC) Python course, which introduces fundamental procedural and object-oriented programming concepts for undergraduate engineering students, set a record for non-required courses in Engineering with 1,015 students registered.


The course covers such diverse elements as variables, data structures (lists, tuples, dictionaries, and sets), file handling, decision structures, loops, functions and modules, as well as classes and objects, data attributes, and methods.

Photo of John Cole
John Cole

The course, started in Spring 2019, was taught by Xiaojin (Jin) Liu, a lecturer in Purdue’s Department of Computer Science. It transitioned to John H. Cole, a lecturer in the College of Engineering, later that year. It is free, voluntary, and non-credit. Students who achieve 70 percent or more earn a certificate issued by the College of Engineering.

“I was anticipating between 600 and 700 students to register, but the final number far exceeded that,” Cole says. “Before the pandemic, our enrollment was constrained by room capacity but during the remote-only semesters, we developed recorded materials and remote office hour techniques that allow us to now reach far more students. With resumed in-person instruction, we are offering this course in both a remote format, and as an in-person flipped classroom where we can provide much more individualized instruction than we would be able to do in a conventional lecture setting.”

So why should an engineering student learn Python? Cole says because it’s both a powerful and beginner friendly programming language. “With just a little bit of Python code, computer users can automate boring tasks, making their work more rewarding and productive,” he says. “Through the EBEC Entry-Level Programming in Python course, we hope to lower the barriers to programming and make learning this essential skill available to as many people as possible.”

He also says learning how to program allows users to go beyond the bounds of existing software to extend current capabilities, fill gaps in functionality, or develop completely new tools.

With an exponentially growing community around data science, machine learning, AI, web development and more, Python is a language that opens programming access to the world. The ability to code in the programming language is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill, particularly in the engineering field. In industries underpinned by computer programming, this skill is critical for data analysis and visualizations, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation.