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Teaching Open Source at UC Davis

by Shauna June 8th, 2014

Students at UC Davis

On Saturday, May 10th, we held our twenty-seventh Open Source Comes to Campus event at the University of California-Davis.  The event was organized by the Davis Computer Science Club and sponsored by Rackspace.  Many thanks to our amazing mentors: Thomas Kluyver, Britta GustafsonCharlyn Gonda, Conrad Fay, Kevin Liu, Michael Seydel, Jackie Zhang, Timothy Tong, Alex Mandel, Mike Covington and Asheesh Laroia.

At the event, we used the Software Carpentry sticky-note method for gathering feedback.  We asked students to tell us one thing they learned and/or enjoyed, and one thing we could improve on.

Sticky Notes at UC Davis

What Students Learned

Many students talked about the open source tools they used at the workshop:

* How to use git; Install IRC; Learn some commands
* GitHub. How to pick a project.
* Learned more git!
* I learned how to use IRC chat.
* I learned that you can tag git commits and use them to reference commits.
* IRC. Never used it before, and it looks like there are awesome channels for webdev.
* I learned about git revert, and how totally kick ass it is.
* I learned how to use git better.
* Learned how to navigate git.
* What branching in git actually is.
* How to collaborate using git.
* Git.
* How to use git; how open source software works.
* I learned how to set up git, and get little familiar of open source project.
* Git commands.
* Awesome way of interacting with tools while listening to lecture.

A couple of students mentioned types of open source projects they were excited to learn about:

* Open source possibilities for designers.
* Open source can be used for good (humanitarian projects)!

Others learned about how to find open source projects and get involved with them:

* Learned: how to get involved with open source projects by Googling information about the project and lurking the repository for information.
* How to properly find open source projects.
* I learned how to find projects to work on.
* I learned a process to start on open source projects.
* How easy it is to search for projects and find important contacts.
* Learned how to gain credibility.
* Learned how to gain exposure in open source projects.
* Found some cool open source projects that relate to my interests.
* I get to know more about open source projects! Found some cool projects and want to try to explore them. :) Thank you!

And others learned about open source generally:

* How many open source projects are out there.
* How open source projects work.
* Open source is actually a big thing.
* Open source/free software doesn’t necessarily mean free as in $0.00, but it means that the source code is freely available to the public & changes can be made.

More students at UC Davis

Things To Improve

Some students felt that the event didn’t challenge them or teach them anything new:

* I only learned about the /me command in IRC. Too easy. :(
* Too easy. :( Since this was tailored to CS students, the materials should be a little more intermediate.

While another would have liked more preparation:
* Learning the basics of git beforehand!
A couple students asked for more examples and demos:

* run through an example open source project we edit.
* Thanks for holding this workshop. If you could have a project demonstration set up and we can see how it is edited, that would be great.

Some students wanted more explanation for why open source is relevant:
* Maybe explain how this is important in today’s world. Make this event accessible to everyone on campus.
* Question: How has open source been profitable to developers when people are able to download it?
* Maybe give some extra info about why open source is good, why we should open source code.
And there were some logistical issues, which we’ll keep an eye out for next time:

* Sound system for louder speaker.
* Have donuts and coffee at the time mentioned.
* Organization of the event should be better. We had no schedule. We did not know what to expect, when the breaks are, are there breaks? Lunch at 1 pm is too late.

Finally, some folks had suggestions for improving the curriculum:

* Want to learn about how people contribute to Python.
* Workflow to using git and GitHub
* Like to learn more about popular tools.
* Suggestion: during the git portion, explain what each command is for more thoroughly.
* OpenHatch: who are you? You never explained! How to get involved in projects other than finding bugs? What was the point of git exercise? It did not make sense. Also without looking at the hint, it was not clear at all.

event more students at UC Davis

We highly recommend the sticky note method!  We’ve had very little luck getting students to fill out exit surveys.  Writing some short, anonymous notes seems like a much better way of learning how your event went and what you can do better.  Thanks, Davis attendees!

I spent weeks going back and forth with Hanne Paine, a student and open source enthusiast at SUNY Stony Brook. For every date she suggested, we already had an event planned. Finally, we decided to wait until the fall to hold a full workshop.  I felt badly, though. I knew I’d be passing through New York City in April, right around the dates she’d been pushing for. “How about I just stop by for a couple hours on a week night and do a short intro presentation?”

It was a low muss, low fuss affair. Hanne arranged for a room and some pizza. I asked OpenHatch volunteer and Wikimedian Sumana Harihareswara to attend the event with me, and we figured out the curriculum on the train ride over. Hanne greeted us when we got to campus about ten minutes before the event was scheduled to start. “How’s it looking?” we asked.

Hanne smiled. “We have over 90 sign ups.”

a large crowd of attendees at Stony Brook event

Of the 90 signups, 75+ attended. This was more than we had seats for, and many students ended up sitting in the aisles and on the floor in the front of the room.  It was also a 40 to 1 student to mentor ratio – by far the highest we’ve ever had.

I wasn’t worried. We’ve designed the OpenHatch curriculum to work well with any size group. Many of the small group activities can easily be turned into pair programming (or pair brainstorming, or pair researching) exercises. I presented our “Intro to Free and Open Source Software” and our “Communications Tools” activities to students, who worked together and helped each other. Thanks to the Software Carpentry sticky-note method, Sumana and I were able to more easily find students who were really stuck.

two students work on an activity at Stony Brook event

After the communications tools activities, Sumana presented on learning styles. Drawing on the work of Mel Chua, she talked about the different ways that people learn and how certain kinds of learners might have special difficulty contributing to open source. Both Sumana and I have seen many a newcomer to open source assume that it’s their fault they’re not able to complete a task or understand a concept. Sumana discussed ways to overcome these issues, and the need for a diversity of learners in open source.

The final element of the evening was a career panel, where students asked question of Sumana, Red Hat’s Marina Zhurakhinskaya, and Mozilla’s Gregg Lind. Due to technical difficulties, it ended up being an IRC-based chat instead of a video discussion. Students asked a variety of questions, both expected (“How do you get paid?”) and unexpected (“How does open licensing work?”).

students at Stony Brook event

Takeaways

  • It’s not clear whether SUNY Stony Brook is an unusually great place for open source outreach, or if the nature of the shorter event attracted more people. Regardless, it was definitely the most impact we’ve had for the least amount of effort. We’re hoping to use this model for schools that can’t support a longer workshop, or as a “teaser” for communities that are not yet ready for a full Open Source Comes to Campus event.
  • Although these events can run with a small number of volunteers, it’s clear that those volunteers need to be trained and prepared. If you’re interested in leading a short event at a college – or other community group – near you, please contact us, and we’ll give you the support and training you’ll need to pull this off.
  • The difficulty scheduling a weekend event at Stony Brook has also pushed us to try running simultaneous events. This has by and large been successful, and something we’re planning to adopt going forward. More in a later post!

Thanks to Hanne Paine for organizing this event, to Sumana Harihareswara for helping present, and to Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Gregg Lind for joining us on the career panel. We can’t wait to return to Stony Brook in the fall!

laughing student at Stony Brook event

Teaching open source at Rutgers University

by Shauna April 17th, 2014

students at Rutgers OSCTC

On Monday, October 21st, we ran our seventeenth Open Source Comes to Campus event at Rutgers University.  We were invited to Rutgers by Sri Raga Velagapudi, who we met at Grace Hopper Open Source Day only two weeks before.  Myself, Sri, and Prachi Pendse, a CS graduate student, worked hard to pull off a great event on short notice.

This was our first weekday event, and unsurprisingly there were a lot of students coming and going as they fit the event in between classes. Despite being short-staffed (three staff and thirty students made for a 1:10 mentor:student ratio) we had little trouble keeping students caught up.  This was due in large part to the friendliness of the attendees, who often reached out to help students who were arriving late.  We also made use of the What You Missed wiki page.

The event was also shorter than average.  The time was mostly lost from our contributions workshop, the last activity of the day.  This meant that students were only able to get through the first steps of contributing, such as picking a project, and reading through an issue to understand it.  Students got a great deal out of these beginning steps, and did not seem to mind having to stop before they’d even decided what to work on.  This is an important lesson for events with longer workshops: students shouldn’t feel rushed or pushed to contribute, but encouraged to take their time familiarizing themselves the process.

We learned as much as our students did from this event!  We hope to return to Rutgers soon.

Teaching open source at UMass Amherst

by Shauna April 9th, 2014

 

Students working at Open Source Comes to Campus - UMass.

On Sunday, March 9th, we ran another Open Source Comes to Campus event at UMass Amherst.  We ran a first event at UMass last April, and hope to run another next year!  Many thanks to our wonderful in-person mentors Heidi Ellis, Karl Wurst, and Terri Yu, and to our remote mentors Marina Zhurakhinskaya, Sean Lip, Yana Malysheva, and Jacob Davis.

Contributions

  • The first contribution of the day came during the first hour!  One student noticed a mistake in our bug tracker activity and, with our encouragement, filed a bug.
  • During the contributions workshop, two students worked on issues in the Open Science Collaboration blog.  Both involved adding plug-ins to the blogging framework Pelican so the students were able to help each other with the process.  One student gave readers the ability to share individual blog posts via email and social media with the click of a button. Another student gave authors the ability to place parts of articles behind a cut.  Both enhancements have been merged into the project and are being used by the community.
  • One student attempted to work on the Open Science Collaboration blog, but had difficulty setting up Pelican on Windows.  Not to be deterred, she stayed an hour after the event was technically over working with a remote mentor to fix the problem.
  • Mentor Heidi Ellis led a small group of students interested in Mousetrap, a GNOME application that allows users with physical disabilities to move a mouse cursor.  Working together on a single machine, they found and reported a bug that was causing the program to crash.
  • Another student contributed to WelcomeBot, a small OpenHatch project which aims to welcome newcomers to our IRC channel even when no one else is there.  He implemented a vast improvement in how the bot recognizes when it’s being greeted or asked for help.

Notes

  • With deadlines for the Outreach Program for Women and Google Summer of Code coming up, we spent a lot of time talk about opportunities for students and how to pursue them. OPW organizer Marina Zhurakhinskaya talked with students over video chat during our career panel and mentored student applicants during the contributions workshop.  Several students remarked on how much they appreciated her help.  Although the focus we give to internships will vary based on proximity to application deadlines, we plan on highlighting these kinds of opportunities more prominently, and have made a wiki page on the topic to help us do so.
  • We tried out a new version of the Practicing Git activity. We aimed to retain the interactive elements of our typical activity while allowing the tutorial to be lead by a single presenter. The new activity also had the benefit of being not entirely a toy project.  The activity was generally well received, making it a good option for events where only a single mentor is comfortable teaching git.
  • The Contributions Workshop continues to improve.  All but one student stayed through the entirety of the workshop, with more than a third of students continuing past the official ending time.  Two student submitted pull requests to projects later that night.  At the same time, we did have some difficulty connecting students with our remote mentors.  We received a ton of useful feedback from the maintainers of our first OpenHatch-Affiliated Project, Oppia.  We hope that by introducing students to projects before the event, arranging for video-based introductions, and pairing remote mentors with local mentors, we can continue making the Contributions Workshop even more enjoyable.
  • UMass once again opened itself up to students from other schools, and once again Mt Holyoke was well represented.  Given the interest in open source from Mt Holyoke, we hope to run an event there soon!

Goals for Open Source Comes to Campus in 2014

by Shauna February 7th, 2014
Goooals.  Photo CC-BY-SA by Thomas Leth-Olsen.

Goooals. Photo CC-BY-SA by Thomas Leth-Olsen.

At OpenHatch we have big dreams. One of them? Keeping better track of our dreams.

When we sat down a few months ago to make a plan for 2014, we regretted not creating clear and public goals at the start of 2013. By committing to specific goals, and promising to measure and report the results, we’re pushing ourselves to make progress.  In the spirit of progress, here are our goals for 2014.

Increase the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, and make them easier for others to run.

Why: Last year we had many more invitations to run events than we, with our small team, could possibly accept. We’re only human – and we don’t want our humanity to keep students from being introduced to open source! While we will continue planning and attending workshops ourselves, we’re focused on making it so anyone, anywhere can run an Open Source Comes to Campus workshop.

How: In phase one, we documented our planning process and put all of our materials – curriculum, publicity, etc – online. Phase two, currently underway, involves recruiting schools to run events and using their feedback to improve our process.

Measured by:

  • Number of events: We hope to double the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, from 12 in 2013 to 24 in 2014.
  • Feedback from events: For each event, we will elicit feedback in the form of surveys from students and mentors, and have debriefings with organizers. We hope to see a positive trend in the surveys. A positive trend would be an improvement of the average rating by 1 point or more (on a scale of 1-4).
  • Hands-off events: We plan to run at least one event with minimal-to-no involvement on the part of OpenHatch organizers. We hope our surveys show that these events are just as successful as those we have a more active role in.
  • Repeated events: It’s as good a sign as you can get when organizers want to run more events. We’re hoping to run at least six repeat events this year, and for at least half our event organizers in 2014 to express interest in a repeat event.

Improve the Open Source Comes to Campus curriculum

Why: We’ve worked hard on our curriculum, and have seen the payoff from that in a few key areas. Over the course of eight months and a lot of trial and error, our introduction to version control went from a confusing, too-long lecture to a well-liked, hands-on activity. We want all of our curriculum to be as well-received as Practicing Git – and we’d like to offer more curriculum options for organizers, so they can tailor events to the needs and interest of their participants.

How: Through feedback, we’ve identified the ‘Contributions Workshop’ as the element of our events that needs the most work. We’ve also identified the ‘History and Ethics of Free Software’ section as needing significant improvement. We will continue to brainstorm ways to improve the activities and test those changes by eliciting feedback from attendees and mentors. We’ll also talk to event organizers and community members about what new curriculum elements to add and how to add them.

Measured by:

  • Existing weak areas: For the ‘Contributions Workshop’ and ‘History and Ethics of Free Software’, we hope to go through at least one new iteration of the activity, and to see a positive trend in survey evaluations of these activities.
  • New sections: We hope to add at least two new sections to the curriculum. Current ideas for sections include more openly discussing the mental blocks that keep people from contributing to software, an expanded IRC activity, and an introduction to Linux (either through installations, or a virtual machine).

Partner with open source projects to help students form relationships with communities.

Why: While it’s great to see students submit pull requests at our events and get their changes merged, the truth is that most open source contributions – especially to new projects – don’t take place in an hour or two, even for open source veterans. We’re refocusing our efforts on helping students connect with open source projects that will welcome them into their communities.

How: We’re going to recruit OpenHatch-affiliated projects to participate in Open Source Comes to Campus. We’ll work with these projects to improve their guides and introductory materials, and to help them identify good tasks for students. After events, we’ll help projects follow up with students. We’ll be a resource to help students continue to contribute.

Measured by:

  • 10 OpenHatch-affiliated projects: We hope to have at least ten such projects actively participating in our events by the end of the year.
  • 2 new contributors per project: For each affiliated project, we hope to help them find at least two ongoing contributors from among our students. An ongoing contributor is a student who has made at least one new contribution to the project, separate from what they worked on at the Open Source Comes to Campus event.

Keep students involved in the community after events are over.

Why: We’ve been so focused on improving our events that we’ve neglected the important work of following up with students and seeing how involved they’ve become with open source. While there’s a lot of value in simply knowing more about open source and how to use it, we do hope that some of our students continue to contribute to the community. We want to see if our students are staying involved and, through outreach, help them do so.

How: Most students will work one-on-one or in small groups with at least one mentor during the event. We will ask mentors to take brief notes on their students – their level of enthusiasm, their interests, and the types of problems they encountered. We will also gauge student interest through our exit surveys. We plan to follow up with every student who submits an exit survey as well as every student we receive feedback about from a mentor. Additionally, we plan to do some community-building around OSCTC alumni and organizers.

Measured by:

  • Identifying students: We will attempt to collect contact information and notes on interests and goals for at least half of students at each event.
  • Following up with students: We, or a local organizer, will attempt to follow up with 100% of students we’ve collected contact information for. We hope that 20% or more of those students will go on to participate in the community (or will already be doing so).
  • Community events: We plan to host community events for students, including: a monthly online meetup for OSCTC alumni on IRC; a monthly online meetup for OSCTC and other open source organizers on IRC; and 5 in person meetups for alumni in Boston and San Francisco.
  • Using the mailing list: Our alumni mailing list is currently very quiet. We plan to start sending a monthly email to attendees letting them know about opportunities available to them and events in their area.

How you can help

If you want to help us reach our goals, there are a lot of things you can do.

To help us increase the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events you can invite us to your school!

To help us improve the Open Source Comes to Campus curriculum you can test out our current curriculum and give us feedback. This is especially great if you’re new to one of the topics, such as git, or navigating bug trackers. You can also help us develop new activities.

To help us partner with open source projects you can talk to us about what it would take to make your project an OpenHatch-affiliated project.

To help us keep students involved in the community you can send us information about opportunities such as Google Summer of Code or good tutorials/resources that we can send their way.

Watch this space

I’ll be revisiting this post over the course of the year to check our progress towards our goals.  And in December, I’ll make another post letting you know how we did.  See you then!

Teaching Open Source at Columbia University

by Shauna January 22nd, 2014

Three people smile as they look at a computer screen.

On Saturday, October 19th, we ran our sixteenth Open Source Comes to Campus event, at Columbia University. Thanks to Columbia University’s Women in Computer Science and the Application Development Initiative for hosting! Check out the gallery of the best photos from the event (and the other ones).

Staff

Ivete Tecedor, rmo, Emily Chen, Sri Raga Velagapudi, Shauna Gordon-McKeon

Selected Contributions

  • Mentor Ivete describes her experience working with a handful of students: While browsing some projects using open government data, we noticed a bug in opencongress.com‘s member stats, where a few members had a rank that was higher than the total count of members, so that is clearly incorrect. We started by filing a bug in the Github repo’s issue tracker and then went looking at the calculation of that number. While we were working through that, we happened to read on opencongress.com‘s homepage that they are redoing the site and will launch a whole new site within the next month. We decided to stop trying to fix the bug since the fix would probably go unused, but left the ticket open so that the maintainers could be aware of it. And one of them commented on the bug the next day, confirming it!
  • Several students worked on getting the NLTK development environment set up and on understanding some of the issues reported in the NLTK issue tracker.
  • Another student looked at a feature request for Tomboy a desktop note-taking application. Unfortunately a slow internet connection meant he could not download the libraries needed to work on the project, but he was able to verify that the feature had not yet been added and located where in the project changes would need to be made.
  • One student was very interested in the projects maintained by the Sunlight Foundation. He downloaded several repositories and browsed through the contents, then headed over to the OpenStates IRC channel where he worked with maintainers to updated issues in the bug tracker.

Notes

  • We had 29 students attend this event.  Students were very prompt – many of them even arrived before breakfast! – and most stayed throughout the day. Our process for getting latecomers caught up seems to be improving as well.
  • Our last event, at Morris, had showed us the need to develop a more extensive git curriculum for more experienced attendees. Although we weren’t able to extend the curriculum in the short span of time between the two events, we made sure to group the more experienced students with our most git-savvy instructors. Special thanks to Ivete and rmo for leading students on an impromtu tour of advanced git. Feedback from Ivete, rmo, and their groups has helped us determine which topics to cover in the extended lesson.
  • We recommended explainshell to students as a great resource for learning about the linux command line. This sparked a discussion about how the tool could be enhanced and what steps students might take to contribute, such as submitting a feature request or forking the project.
  • We were excited to have Princeton’s Katherine Ye attending the event.  Katherine was interested in organizing an Open Source Comes to Campus event at Princeton and wanted to see what it was like. Just one month later, the Princeton event was a reality!  We’re always excited to have organizers attend our events and get a feel for what they’re like, so if you’re interested in running an event, let us know and we’ll make sure you’re invited to any in your area.

Teaching Open Source at Morris

by Shauna January 12th, 2014

Students and mentors at UMN Morris.

On Saturday, September 28th we ran our fifteenth Open Source Comes to Campus event, at the University of Minnesota at Morris. Thanks to the Computer Science Discipline for hosting! Check out the gallery of the best photos from the event (and the other ones).

Staff

Elena Machkasova, Nic McPhee, Kristin Lamberty, Jim Hall, Alex Jarvis, Dan Flies, Matt Hardy, Shauna Gordon-McKeon, Asheesh Laroia

Selected Contributions

Notes

  • We had a truly exceptional team of mentors for this event: the entire tenured Computer Science faculty at Morris (Elena, KK, and Nic); open source veteran Jim Hall; and a great group of alumni who were in Morris for homecoming weekend (Alex, Dan and Matt). Everyone knew someone else in the room – some people knew everyone else in the room! – and this level of ease and friendliness made for a great day. There was a lot of fun IRC chatter, the career panel was lively and ran long, and students seemed very comfortable asking for help.
  • The above experience left us wondering: how can we promote this kind of atmosphere at events hosted in communities that are not quite as close knit? Ice-breaker and social activities may be just as important to success as any of our technical training.
  • There was a small group of more experienced students who were already familiar with git, and were consequently pretty bored with the Practicing Git activity. This experience inspired us to expand the git lesson to include more advanced topics such as branching, merging, and multiple remotes. It also reinforced the importance of finding out about attendees’ experience levels ahead of time.
  • Speaking of the Practicing Git activity, one of the groups produced the best website to date. For certain definitions of “best”.
  • CS faculty member and host organizer Elena Machkasova introduced many of us to the concept of code poems with her poem written in Clojure.
  • At the event, student Andrew Latterner announced the start of an Open Source Development Club. We wish Andrew good luck and great success!

Purdue students try to set up a projects

Today, we’re releasing a handbook to help open source projects prepare themselves for events.

Here’s why: over the last year of Open Source Comes to Campus, we’ve given more than two hundred people the tools and the opportunity to contribute to open source projects.  But not every student is able to submit a patch or pull request.  The biggest obstacle by far? Confusing documentation and poorly defined tasks in the projects they’re trying to contribute to.

A group of students at our Purdue event faced this obstacle.  They spent all afternoon trying to address a bug in Privly.  Their description of the problems they encountered: “lots of downloads, need an approved account to have access… had to create own database on localhost… tears clouding vision”.  Although they were good-humored about it (see the picture above), they never were able to work on the task they’d picked.

At OpenHatch events, we’ve adapted to this common roadblock by requiring that the projects we present to students do a few things, including testing their installation instructions, identifying good tasks to work on, and being available during some of our events.  We call these OH-affiliated projects.  Putting these benchmarks in place has helped us increase the number of contributions at events, and decrease the frustration.  We’d recommend that any event organizer ask the same of participating projects – especially if their event is geared towards newcomers.

To help open source projects prepare themselves for events, we’ve written a handbook aimed at making projects easier to understand, install, and contribute to:

The In-Person Event Handbook

It’s a short, practical list of steps to you can take to improve the odds that newcomers will be able to contribute to your project at a hackathon, workshop or sprint.  For each recommendation, we’ve included an example of implementation from our own project: OpenHatch.

The guide is, itself, an open source project (licensed CC BY).  We welcome your feedback and contributions: you can share advice and submit changes via email, the issue tracker, or by submitting a pull request on Github.  You can fork the guide as well.

We hope you find this helpful, and that it increases the number of successful contributions – and the number of happy contributors – to your project.

You can learn more about what OpenHatch has been working on (and support it with a donation) on our 2014 fundraising page.

Open Source Comes to Campus

by Shauna December 10th, 2013

A little less than a year ago, I was asked to direct OpenHatch‘s Open Source Comes to Campus event series. Open Source Comes to Campus is a workshop designed to introduce college students to open source, to teach them how to use tools like version control and issue trackers, and to guide them through making their first contributions.  When I joined, OpenHatch was averaging two events a year.  I was asked, hopefully, if I could run seven events in 2013.

2013

The year did not begin auspiciously. I accidentally scheduled the first event for Presidents’ Day Weekend. We had less than a dozen people show up that snowy morning. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun, and the day seemed like a success when one of our attendees, Jane, grinned widely and said: “Today has been very empowering for me regarding my computer and the ways I can manipulate it.” I scribbled it down on a napkin so I wouldn’t forget it.

Since then, we’ve run twelve more events, nearly doubling our goal from the start of the year. We’ve been to big cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago, as well as small college towns like Wellesley, Amherst, Lafayette and Morris, Minnesota. We’ve taught hundreds of students, and thanks to the generosity of our hosts at Northeastern, UMass-Amherst, CCSF, and UIC, who opened their door to students from other local schools, we’ve been able to reach students we would have missed otherwise. We’ve met some amazing people, gotten some thought-provoking questions, and seen some… interesting creations. Through trial and error we’ve been able to make some big improvements to our process and our curriculum. It’s been a great year.

But for every event we’ve successfully run, there’s been another we couldn’t get to.  Aside from one part-time staff member (me), OpenHatch is made up of volunteers. We don’t have the time or the money to run events in all of the places we’ve been asked to run them, whether that’s in faraway places like Alaska, India or Australia, or closer to home.

Scaling our events

Our solution? Open Source Comes to Campus In a Box. We’re carefully documenting every part of our events, from the materials we present to the way we build our publicity websites, from food and space checklists to templates of all the emails we send. Our hope is that local organizers will be able to use our materials to run their own events, as has happened with our Python Workshops.

We’ve already had one success story. In late November, an enthusiastic group of students from Princeton’s Women in Computer Science pulled off a great event with over thirty attendees, the first accomplishment of their newly-created open source club. They’ve given us some valuable feedback about how to improve both our events and how we document them. We’re excited to keep going! Boston University will be running a similar event in the spring, and we’re looking for more schools who are interested.

Our efforts to improve and scale Open Source Comes to Campus have paid off in other ways as well. Because our materials are now online, we can tell students who will be arriving late to check out a lecture or activity ahead of time. We can also use the activities on their own at other events: I gave our open source communications tools presentation at AdaCamp, and ran our hands-on git activity at BarCamp Boston. Thinking hard about how to improve the contributions workshop led to a (still in beta) guide for open source projects on how to become more accessible. It also led to a carefully curated set of first tasks, supplied by OpenHatch-affiliated projects. These tasks are ideal for attendees at our events, as well as for newcomers who reach out to us online.

Contributing

We’re always looking for help with Open Source Comes to Campus. How can you get involved? If you’re affiliated with a college or university, you can host an event. If you’re an open source aficionado who’d like to volunteer as a mentor, you can sign up to be notified when there’s an event in your area. If you have an open source project you’d like to welcome newcomers to, you can become an OpenHatch affiliated project. You can help us with the issues in our issue tracker, give us feedback on our materials, and you can always, always join us on IRC.

If you’re financially able, you can donate to support us, too. Your contributions, sponsorships from companies like Puppet Labs, Github and Google, and the effort of dozens of volunteers have made it possible for us to reach more than 200 students this year.

Teaching Open Source in Chicago

by Shauna December 6th, 2013

Students talking to each other

On Wednesday, September 25th and Thursday, September 26th we ran our fourteenth Open Source Comes to Campus event, at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  Thanks to Women in Computer Science at UIC for hosting! Check out the gallery of the best photos from the event (and the other ones).

Staff
Aeva Palecek, Devina Dhawan, Sheila Miguez, Beth Lynn Eicher, Shauna Gordon-McKeon, Asheesh Laroia

Notes

  • This was our first two-day event, and the different structure really changed the event.  It emphasized for us the importance of getting our teaching materials online and in great shape.  It was very helpful to be able to point attendees to, for instance, the Git training mission as a way to catch up on what they missed the day before.  It would have been even better if we could point those who only came the first day to resources for what they were missing the next day. Since this event, we’ve put many of our materials online.
  • Because many attendees could only make one night, there was a great deal of duplicated material.  Projects time was much shorter than usual, and almost all of the attendees chose to work on a single project: my effort to digitize the 1870s radical feminist magazine, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly (read more on Wikipedia).  A number of attendees did transcription while others helped with documentation and helped me brainstorm better ways to organize the project.
  • Our career panel was part-local, part-remote, with Chicago-area mentor Beth Lynn Eicher in person and Sumana Harihareswara and Marina Zhurakhinskaya joining by video conference. This is the second time we’ve had remote participants in a career panel, and the second time it’s gone off pretty flawlessly.  Previously we’ve invited remote participants only as a backup when our mentors haven’t been interested in doing the career panel, but there’s something to be said for the diversity of experiences you get when you can draw from anywhere.  We tried to record the career panel, and got as far as setting up a Google Hangouts On Air, but forgot to hit the record button!
  • Thanks to WiCS/UIC’s generosity in opening up the event to all women students, we had sign ups from thirteen different area schools, including Chicago State, University of Chicago, Loyola, Robert Morris, DePaul, DeVry, Dominican University, Northeastern Illinois University, and of course, UIC.
  • This was our first explicitly women only event.  (Although one previous event, held at Wellesley College, had all women attendees due to the student body.)  This created an interesting and enjoyable dynamic. Several times during the two evenings spontaneous discussions emerged about the obstacles involved in being a woman in technology.

As always, our Open Source Comes to Campus events are possible thanks to our sponsors. Special thanks to Puppet Labs for their Bronze sponsorship, and to GitHub for funding food.