Running the race….
Wow, so much has happened in a month! And I’ve learned so much. I’m going to try to summarize the events in the next several paragraphs. I’m still processing what I’ve learned and my reflections on that will have to wait for a follow-on.
Frontiers in Education Conference
At the end of October, I attended the Frontiers in Education conference. This conference focuses on new developments in computing and engineering education. I was on a panel addressing different ways that students can participate in open source software in an academic environment.
The panel also had Mel Chua from RedHat, Clif Kussmaul from Muhlenberg, Matt Burke from George Washington, and Greg Hislop from Drexel. There were some good questions raised by the folks in the audience that caused me to think more widely about how open source fits in a variety of academic environments. Issues like Intellectual Property reared their head reminding me that we are still exploring what the intersection of OSS and academia looks like.
Merriment with Mel!
Mel Chua, Red Hat Education Liaison, came to visit for almost two weeks at the beginning of November. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Red Hat for supporting her visit! I felt like my brain went into fifth gear the entire time. Mel participated in both my Software Engineering and in my Introduction to Informatics course and spoke with our student ACM club. Mel’s energy and ability to engage people in thinking is awesome! She got lots more questions from my class than I usually do!
She and Sebastian Dziallas (undergraduate at Olin College of Engineering, engineering manager for Sugar on a Stick (SoaS), and founder of Fedora’s Education SIG) both put on a “Hack Share” where Sebastian taught us how to package an OSS product. This was a 90-minute sprint for newbies to OSS where Sebastian led us through the difference between a package and the raw source code and how to package a product for easy release. Thank you Sebastian for taking the time to educate us! Please come back again! Soon!
And to add to the excitement, Bryan Hobbs, Andrew McGrath, Jon Polaski, (Western New England College students), Mel, Sebastian and I all went to the GNOME Summit held at MIT in Boston on Saturday, November 6th. I had never been to such an event and it was eye opening. It was an immersion experience in how OSS works and it was exciting. At the opening meeting, the students got up and suggested a session on the Caribou project. Later they lead this session and got helpful input on direction. I’m quite proud of their professionalism for standing up for their project!
After the session on Caribou, Martin Owens gave Jon and Bryan a quick tutorial on SVG keys and ideas on how to integrate them into Caribou. Thank you Martin! Overall students got a much better picture of the scope and complexity of the computing profession. And I hope that they gained some of the wonderful motivation that propels an OSS project. We’ll definitely do this again as we all got lots of good stuff! The GNOME community was very welcoming and helpful.
I also got to spend a day with Mel and Sebastian talking to some Profs at Olin. It was one of those days that really energizes me. Talking to people that have done cool things results in interesting ideas and then more ideas are sparked and I went home very, very full of ideas. One idea that we came up with is to run joint/parallel Software Engineering courses at Olin and Western New England College. Sebastian was thinking of running a student-led Software Engineering class at Olin in fall 2011 and I could have a senior SE class at that same time. The idea was for Sebastian to be the OSS and domain expert for the project and I would handle the academic side of the house such as gradeable items and grading. We would share the approach and SE teaching. Don’t know how exactly or if this can work, but I really like the idea.
To round out the visit, on her last day Mel cooked us a gourmet dinner. This lady can cook! We had salad with apples and cranberries, butternut soup with chipotle sour cream sauce, chicken stuffed with mozarella and sausage and rolls. We were stuffed and my kids (who typically have more limited tastes) were in awe. The entire experience was wonderful and Mel, you are welcome in our home any time!