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Passing it on to High School Students

April 6, 2011

The five seniors in my Advanced Software Engineering class and I visited Nancy Dugre’s combined CS1 and CS3 class at Minnechaug High School last Tuesday. My students got up early to make the 7:35 a.m. class and Nancy kindly jump-started us with coffee.

The overall goal of our visit was to convey some of the excitement of computing to high school students. And to generate interest in FOSS projects by showing the high school students some of the things that they could do.

We started with a FOSS Field Trip that had students exploring SourceForge. We wanted them to get an idea of the number and variety of FOSS projects that are available. We had students search for projects in an area that they were interested in and they searched for Facebook projects and gaming, but also guitar projects, soccer projects, and Linux projects. Some students expressed surprise at the number of applications they found.

Next my students demonstrated their FOSS projects and their contributions. Andrew McGrath is working on the GNOME OCRFeeder project and has just had code for converting images to plain text adopted in the latest release.

Justin Duperre and Bryan Hobbs have been working on the Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modeler (STEM). They have added the capability to report the percentages of people currently infected with a disease, likely to be infected, and deceased as part of a tooltip display on a graphical depiction of disease spread in an area. Their code will be distributed in the upcoming release of the STEM tool.

Todd Binger and Jon Polaski have been working with OpenMRS. They created detailed installation instructions for the development environment (more on that in a future blog) have just submitted a patch to handle multi-part names in the Create Patient form.

The high school students had questions about how the seniors became interested in computing and their FOSS experiences. The seniors talked about how they learned that some of the classroom lessons such as being required to comment one’s code, were very useful in FOSS projects.

We then had another activity where the high school students attempted to create and execute test cases to replicate the OpenMRS issue with multi-part names. We wanted to demonstrate to the high school folks that they didn’t need an extensive coding background to contribute to FOSS.

As we are almost at the end of the second semester of these seniors working with FOSS, the experience allowed me to reflect on what we all had learned. My seniors clearly had gained an understanding of FOSS culture and conveyed excitement and interest in participating in their projects to the high school students. The seniors answered questions from the high school students adroitly, displaying their breadth of understanding of FOSS communities and how they work as well as of the role of computing in society. Andrew, Justin, Bryan, Jon, and Todd: I’m proud of you!

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011 10:17 pm

    Awesomesauce. This is exactly how the circle keeps on turning – way to pay it forward, Andrew, Justin, Bryan, Jon, and Todd! Teaching really is one of the best ways to learn, too.

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