💬 Introductory workshop to coding using Python for IEEE NTU Student Branch.
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IEEE Python Basics Workshop

by Suyash Lakhotia for IEEE NTU Student Branch

Disclaimer - This document is only meant to serve as a reference for the attendees of the workshop. It does not cover all the concepts or implementation details discussed during the actual workshop.

What is Python?

  • Python is a general purpose programming language. Other examples include Java, C, C++ etc.
  • It is known for its remarkable power coupled with readable syntax.
    • The syntax of a programming language is the set of rules that defines the combinations of symbols that are considered to be correctly structured pieces of code. Think: Spelling & Grammar.
  • It is one of the easiest programming languages to learn but is also one of the most powerful languages, used heavily in machine learning and data science.
  • Python code is executed line-by-line in a sequential fashion.

Basic Syntax

# Basic Python Example

print("This is an example of Python code.")

a = int(input("Enter a value for a: "))
b = int(input("Enter a value for b: "))
print("The sum of a & b is: " + str(a + b))  # print the sum of a & b

Statement: Each line of code in a Python program is called a statement. Python interprets statements and runs them one by one.

Comments: The # symbol indicates a comment and anything after # is ignored by the computer. Comments provide information to improve code readability.

Built-in Functions: Python comes with many built-in functions like print() & input() to help you in writing your code.


What are variables?

Recall variables from algebra — x = 5. In programming, variables are used to store data temporarily to make it easier to refer to them. The value referred to by a variable can be updated as you execute the program using the assignment operator i.e. =.

a = 3       # simple assignment
a = a + 1   # RHS is evaluated first
print(a)    # 4

There are four basic data types in Python:

  1. Integer - Whole numbers. E.g. 1, 123, 89
  2. Float - Floating decimal point numbers. E.g. 1.3, 82.4, 3.14159…
  3. String - Sequence of characters. E.g. a, abc, abc def
  4. Boolean - Two possible values — True or False.
a = 5
b = 4.3
c = "Hello, world"
d = True

It is possible to convert a variable from one type to another if the conversion is compatible. For example, converting "123" (string) to 123 (integer) is possible but "hello" cannot be converted to an integer.

strA = "123"
intA = int(strA)      # 123
floatA = float(strA)  # 123.0

Printing Variables

In Python, we can print text onto the console using the print() function.

print("Hello, world")

a = 5
print("The value of 'a' is: " + str(a))

Getting User Input

In Python, we can get input from the user and store this in variables using the input() function. The function prints whatever prompt is passed to it and waits for the user input. Once the Enter key is pressed, it stores the user input into the variable as a string.

name = input("Enter your name: ")

age = int(input("Enter your age: "))

Arithmetic Operations

Variables can be used to perform simple arithmetic operations. For example:

a = 4
b = 5
c = a + b	# addition
d = a - b	# subtraction
e = a * b	# multiplication
f = a / b	# division
g = a % b	# modulus (remainder)


Strings represent a sequence of one or more characters. Each character can be accessed separately using a zero-based index.

H  e  l  l  o
0  1  2  3  4
s = "Hello"
print(s + ", world")

Python comes with a lot of useful built-in methods for strings.

s.lower()                   # returns lowercase version of string
s.upper()                   # returns uppercase version of string
s.find("abc")               # searches the string for "abc" and returns the first index where it begins or -1
s.replace("old", "new")     # returns a string with all occurrences of "old" replaced with "new"

If you want to access a part of a string, Python allows you to slice the string using the start and end indices.

s = "hello"
print(s[1:4])   # "ell"
print(s[1:])    # "ello"
print(s[:3])    # "hel"
print(s[:])     # "hello"


Instead of variables holding individual values, it is also possible to create a list of values in Python. Each item in the list is called an element and can be accessed individually using a zero-based index.

listOfNums = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]


Dictionaries in Python allow you to store key-value pairs. Keys are unique within a dictionary while values may be repeated. For example, a dictionary of names (keys) and ages (values). Because the keys are unique, they are used as the index of the dictionary to access the values.

ages = {"Bob" : 21, "Jake" : 24, "John" : 23}
print(ages["Bob"])   # 21
print(ages["Jake"])  # 24

ages["Jane"] = 23
print(ages)  # {"Bob" : 21, "Jake" : 24, "John" : 23, "Jane" : 23}

ages["Bob"] = 24
print(ages)  # {"Bob" : 24, "Jake" : 24, "John" : 23, "Jane" : 23}

print(ages.keys())  # dict_keys(["Bob", "Jake", "John", "Jane"])

Control Flow

While sequentially executing code can perform a lot of tasks for us, many tasks require some subtask to be repeated or selectively executed. For example, if we want to calculate the average age in a classroom:

total = 0
numOfStudents = 0

studentAge = int(input("What's your age? "))
total = total + studentAge
numOfStudents = numOfStudents + 1

studentAge = int(input("What's your age? "))
total = total + studentAge
numOfStudents = numOfStudents + 1

studentAge = int(input("What's your age? "))
total = total + studentAge
numOfStudents = numOfStudents + 1


average = total / numOfStudents

Repeating the same lines of code is tedious and limits the reusability & maintainability of the code. For example, in the above code, if we just wanted to change the user prompt to Enter your age: instead, we would have to change many lines of code.

if Statements

if statements are one of the most important control flow tools available in programming. They allow the program to dynamically choose which lines of code to execute depending on a particular condition.

if <condition>:
    # Statements here are executed if condition is True
    # Statements here are executed if condition is False
if <conditionA>:
    # Statements here are executed if conditionA is True
elif <conditionB>:
    # Statements here are executed if conditionA is False and conditionB is True
    # Statements here are executed if conditionA and conditionB are False

A colon marks the beginning of a block and statements within each block are indented so that they can be distinguished from each other.


Conditions are boolean expressions that return either True or False. They are made up of relational operators and logical operators.

Relational Operators
  1. ==: equals to
  2. !=: not equals to
  3. < : smaller than
  4. > : greater than
  5. <=: smaller than or equals to
  6. >=: greater than or equals to
if x == y:
    print("x & y are equal.")
    print("x & y are not equal.")
Logical Operators
  1. boolExpr1 and boolExpr2: Both expressions have to be True for the entire expression to be True
  2. boolExpr1 or boolExpr2: Either one expression has to be True for the entire expression to be True
  3. not boolExpr: Inverts the return value of the expression
if (x == y) and (y == z):
    print("x, y & z are equal.")


Loops in programming allow the same task to be executed repeatedly for a definite or indefinite number of times. They are made up of four main sections:

  1. Initialize: Initialize the loop control variable.
  2. Test: Continue the loop?
  3. Loop Body: Task being repeated.
  4. Update: Modify the loop control variable so that the next time we test, we may exit the loop.

There are two main kinds of loops:

  1. Counter Controlled: The number of repetitions of the loop is known before the loop body starts executing.
  2. Sentinel Controlled: The number of repetitions of the loop is unknown before the loop body starts executing.

while Loop

A while loop executes while the given condition is True (i.e. until the given condition is False).

while <condition>:
    # Loop Body

For example, to print all the integers from 1 - 10:

num = 1                 # Initialize
while num <= 10:        # Test
    print(num)          # Loop Body
    num = num + 1       # Update

An example of a sentinel controlled loop:

answer = 5
guess = int(input("Guess a number from 1 - 10: "))
while guess != answer:
    guess = int(input("Wrong! Guess a number from 1 - 10: "))

for Loop

A for loop can be used to iterate through a list and perform tasks accordingly.

for var in someList:
    # Loop Body

In every iteration of the loop, the var variable will be assigned the next value in the list. For example, the code below will print all the elements in the list in separate lines:

numList = [2, 1, 4, 5, 3]
for num in numList:

A for loop can also be used to iterate through a dictionary:

phoneBook = {"Bob" : "555-555", "Jake" : "555-556", "John" : "555-565", "Jane" : "555-655"}
for name in phoneBook.keys():
    print(name + " : " + phoneBook[name])

Alternatively, a for loop can be used like a while loop with a definite number of repetitions using the range() function. The range() function returns a list of integers from 0 up till but not including the passed argument.

for i in range(5):  # range(5) returns [0, 1, 2, 3, 4]


Functions allow you to divide your code into chunks that do specific subtasks, which make your code more readable and reusable.

# Define the function
def functionName():
    # Function Body

functionName()  # Call the function

Parameters & Arguments

Functions can be defined with parameters, which are essentially variables that are set when the function is called using arguments. This allows functions to be reused with different data values.

def sum(a, b):  # a & b are parameters
    c = a + b

sum(3, 2)       # 3 & 2 are arguments
sum(32, 65)     # 32 & 65 are arguments

Return Values

Functions can also return values back to where the function was called so that the result can be further used.

def sum(a, b):
    c = a + b
    return c

s = sum(1, 2)   # s is set to the value of c from sum()