Introduction to Project Code Examples

Introduction and installation

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We are happy to introduce the project code examples for CS230. All the code used in the tutorial can be found on the corresponding github repository. The code has been well commented and detailed, so we recommend reading it entirely at some point if you want to use it for your project.

The code contains examples for TensorFlow and PyTorch, in vision and NLP. The structure of the repository is the following:

This post will help you familiarize with the Project Code Examples, and introduces a series of posts explaining how to structure a deep learning project:



Goals of the code examples

  • through these code examples, explain and demonstrate the best practices for structuring a deep learning project
  • help students kickstart their project with a working codebase
  • in each tensorflow and pytorch, give two examples of projects: one for a vision task, one for a NLP task


Each of the four examples (TensorFlow / PyTorch + Vision / NLP) is self-contained and can be used independently of the others.

Suppose you want to work with TensorFlow on a project involving computer vision. You can first clone the whole github repository and only keep the tensorflow/vision folder:

git clone
cd cs230-code-examples/tensorflow/vision

Create your virtual environment

It is a good practice to have multiple virtual environments to work on different projects. Here we will use python3 and install the requirements in the file requirements.txt.

Installing Python 3: To use python3, make sure to install version 3.5 or 3.6 on your local machine. If you are on Mac OS X, you can do this using Homebrew with brew install python3. You can find instructions for Ubuntu here.

Virtual environment: If we don’t have it already, install virtualenv by typing sudo pip install virtualenv (or pip install --user virtualenv if you don’t have sudo) in your terminal. Here we create a virtual environment named .env. __Navigate inside each example repo and run the following command __ for instance in tensorflow/nlp

virtualenv -p python3 .env
source .env/bin/activate
pip install -r requirements.txt

Run deactivate if you want to leave the virtual environment. Next time you want to work on the project, just re-run source .env/bin/activate after navigating to the correct directory.

If you have a GPU

  • for tensorflow, just run pip install tensorflow-gpu. When both tensorflow and tensorflow-gpu are installed, if a GPU is available, tensorflow will automatically use it, making it transparent for you to use.
  • for PyTorch, follow the instructions here.

Note that your GPU needs to be set up first (drivers, CUDA and CuDNN).

Download the data

You’ll find descriptions of the tasks in tensorflow/vision/, tensorflow/nlp/ etc.


All instructions can be found in the tensorflow/vision/

For the vision example, we will used the SIGNS dataset created for the Deep Learning Specialization. The dataset is hosted on google drive, download it here.

This will download the SIGNS dataset (~1.1 GB) containing photos of hands signs representing numbers between 0 and 5. Here is the structure of the data:


The images are named following {label}_IMG_{id}.jpg where the label is in [0, 5]. The training set contains 1,080 images and the test set contains 120 images.

Once the download is complete, move the dataset into the data/SIGNS folder. Run the script python which will resize the images to size (64, 64). The new resized dataset will be located by default in data/64x64_SIGNS`.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

All instructions can be found in the tensorflow/nlp/

We provide a small subset of the kaggle dataset (30 sentences) for testing in data/small but you are encouraged to download the original version on the Kaggle website.

  1. Download the dataset ner_dataset.csv on Kaggle and save it under the nlp/data/kaggle directory. Make sure you download the simple version ner_dataset.csv and NOT the full version ner.csv.

  2. Build the dataset Run the following script


It will extract the sentences and labels from the dataset, split it into train / test / dev and save it in a convenient format for our model. Here is the structure of the data


Debug If you get some errors, check that you downloaded the right file and saved it in the right directory. If you have issues with encoding, try running the script with python 2.7.

  1. Build the vocabulary For both datasets, data/small and data/kaggle you need to build the vocabulary, with
python --data_dir  data/small


python --data_dir data/kaggle

Structure of the code

The code for each example shares a common structure:


Here is each file or directory’s purpose:

  • data/: will contain all the data of the project (generally not stored on github), with an explicit train/dev/test split
  • experiments: contains the different experiments (will be explained in the following section)
  • model/: module defining the model and functions used in train or eval. Different for our PyTorch and TensorFlow examples
  • creates or transforms the dataset, build the split into train/dev/test
  • train the model on the input data, and evaluate each epoch on the dev set
  • run multiple times with different hyperparameters
  • explore different experiments in a directory and display a nice table of the results
  • evaluate the model on the test set (should be run once at the end of your project)

Running experiments

Now that you have understood the structure of the code, we can try to train a model on the data, using the script:

python --model_dir experiments/base_model

We need to pass the model directory in argument, where the hyperparameters are stored in a json file named params.json. Different experiments will be stored in different directories, each with their own params.json file. Here is an example:


"learning_rate": 1e-3,
"batch_size": 32,
"num_epochs": 20

The structure of experiments after running a few different models might look like this (try to give meaningful names to the directories depending on what experiment you are running):


Each directory after training will contain multiple things:

  • params.json: the list of hyperparameters, in json format
  • train.log: the training log (everything we print to the console)
  • train_summaries: train summaries for TensorBoard (TensorFlow only)
  • eval_summaries: eval summaries for TensorBoard (TensorFlow only)
  • last_weights: weights saved from the 5 last epochs
  • best_weights: best weights (based on dev accuracy)

Training and evaluation

We can now train an example model with the parameters provided in the configuration file experiments/base_model/params.json:

python --model_dir experiments/base_model

The console output will look like

Once training is done, we can evaluate on the test set:

python --model_dir experiments/base_model

This was just a quick example, so please refer to the detailed TensorFlow / PyTorch tutorials for an in-depth explanation of the code.

Hyperparameters search

We provide an example that will call with different values of learning rate. We first create a directory


with a params.json file that contains the other hyperparameters. Then, by calling

python --parent_dir experiments/learning_rate

It will train and evaluate a model with different values of learning rate defined in and create a new directory for each experiment under experiments/learning_rate/, like


Display the results of multiple experiments

If you want to aggregate the metrics computed in each experiment (the metrics_eval_best_weights.json files), simply run

python --parent_dir experiments/learning_rate

It will display a table synthesizing the results like this that is compatible with markdown:

|                                               |   accuracy |      loss |
| experiments/base_model                        |   0.989    | 0.0550    |
| experiments/learning_rate/learning_rate_0.01  |   0.939    | 0.0324    |
| experiments/learning_rate/learning_rate_0.001 |   0.979    | 0.0623    |

Tensorflow or PyTorch ?

Both framework have their pros and cons:


  • mature, most of the models and layers are already implemented in the library.
  • documented and plenty of code / tutorials online
  • the Deep Learning Specialization teaches you how to use Tensorflow
  • built for large-scale deployment and used by a lot of companies
  • has some very useful tools like Tensorboard for visualization (though you can also use Tensorboard with PyTorch)
  • but some ramp-up time is needed to understand some of the concepts (session, graph, variable scope, etc.) – (reason why we have code examples that take care of these subtleties)
  • transparent use of the GPU
  • can be harder to debug


  • younger, but also well documented and fast-growing community
  • more pythonic and numpy-like approach, easier to get used to the dynamic-graph paradigm
  • designed for faster prototyping and research
  • transparent use of the GPU
  • easy to debug and customize

Which one will you choose ?