Q-CTRL launches quantum computing course for people who didn't study physics

Black Opal is built for curious technologists who want to master the basics of quantum without getting an advanced degree or a headache.

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Q-CTRL's Black Opal training course is designed for software engineers, security analysts and data scientists and includes more than 90 modules about quantum computing.

Image: Q-CTRL

If you're fuzzy on the concept of quantum gates or the Bloch sphere, Q-CTRL has a new class that can clear up that confusion. Black Opal is an interactive course that includes a sandbox for building quantum circuits.

Professor Chris Ferrie, the author of "Physics for Babies," wrote the content for the course for Q-CTRL. Ferrie joined the Australian company last year as a quantum education advisor. 

"I strip away one layer at a time until I have one core concept," he said. "I then try to build up a story about that concept using analogies relatable for the audience I have in mind."

SEE: IBM Quantum unveils a 127-qubit quantum processor

Kevin Chee, the head of product at Q-CTRL, said most resources for learning about quantum computing are too technical and require a significant time commitment. He described the target audience as the "curious technologist."

"We built this for people with a background in computer science who are working in tech as a developer or a data scientist or a cybersecurity analyst," he said. "You can spend a few minutes a day to get a foundational knowledge about quantum computing."

The company is offering a one-year subscription for $50 on Black Friday weekend from November 19-29. This discounted price includes an additional four free months of beta access.

The tutorial includes hands-on, animated exercises to explain how quantum computers use sub-atomic particles to do calculations far beyond the reach of traditional computers. The modules provide opportunities for practicing new skills with custom designed tools, including a coding sandbox for building quantum circuits. There are more than 90 modules in the course now and the company plans to keep adding content. 

The course is designed with these three principles, according to Mick Conroy, a senior product manager at Q-CTRL, to make it relevant for the target audience:

  • Make the most of limited training time 
  • Provide hands-on opportunities from the start
  • Use gamefication to increase engagement

Learners can experiment with quantum gates via 3D graphics and build a circuit and watch it run on the Bloch sphere. People who want to jump straight to the hands-on portion don't have to complete a lesson before building a quantum circuit. 

"The practice part is distinct from the learning pathway," Conroy said.

Conroy said the hardest part of building this product was distilling what a user needs to understand the topic thoroughly without being too math heavy.

"We want people to understand enough about the topic to make a decision for themselves about a possible career change or to get their business onboard," Conroy said. 

Learners earn badges to illustrate their mastery of a particular topic, with ratings of great, good and needs more work. 

Chee said the company will add more skills to the course in December and publish coding activities in Q1. Q-CTRL plans a full launch of Black Opal in Q1 2022. The training course is in beta now.

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...