In August and September, students across North America are arriving on campus to their colleges and universities, starting classes, and picking up extracurricular projects.
We’re working with college computer clubs to make open source collaboration a part of students’ fall semester through a program called Open Source Comes to Campus, and we’re looking for campuses, staffers, and sponsors for the fall 2012 series.
We see introductory events as an opportunity for powerful outreach, explaining the ethics behind the movement and bringing greater diversity. For example, varying by event, 22-50% of our attendees have been women.
History and structure
Open Source Comes to Campus began in 2010 with the help of Yuvi Masory, Felice Ford, and a host of local volunteers at the University of Pennsylvania. In the time since, we’ve organized events at MIT, the University of Maryland at College Park, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.
The event has three important components:
- Dedicated time to laptop setup, with instructions for Windows, GNU/Linux, and Macs (e.g., UMD event’s laptop setup)
- Teaching time, including sessions on the history and ethics of open source (AKA “free software”), and how open source communities are organized, both socially and technically (see our basic curriculum sketch)
- Hands-on project time, where active contributors and other helpers work with students to submit real patches to existing open source projects
Our goal is to have every attendee submit a change to an active open source community by the end of the workshop.
We also believe in reviewing and improving these events. For instance, when reviewing the event with only 22% attendance by women, we discovered that only 9% of computer science students at that institution are female; at least we beat the average. We believe that our newcomer-friendly event description and allying with women’s groups at colleges are the keys to our success on this metric so far. You can join the community of outreach event organizers and discussers on our Events mailing list.
This semester, we’re going to be experimenting with a few adjustments:
- We’ll add a live demonstration of submitting a patch to a project, and then watching a maintainer actually merge it in.
- At least some of our fall 2012 events will combine the teaching and projects into a single day, to minimize the time cost on our attendees.
- Where possible, we’ll be adding a “career panel” so students can listen to open source contributors discuss how open source has fit into their professional lives.
As usual, we’ll survey attendees afterward to find out how we can improve and what further help they need to get involved.
We need help
Students: Do you want to invite us to your college or university? We especially love to work with active computer clubs and diversity-oriented computing groups.
Open source contributors: Are you interested in acting as a teacher, a teaching assistant, or an ambassador for your project?
Prospective sponsors: As a non-profit, we’re also looking for financial assistance to make the events possible. Do you work for a company that could help fund these events?
Get in touch with us by emailing us:
Or, leave a comment!