Opportunities for Students to Contribute to FOSS Projects

Heidi Ellis (Western New England University), Gregory Hislop (Drexel University), Luis Ibanez (KITWARE Inc.)
Location: D133
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 2 ratings)

Student contribution to open source software projects has great potential to benefit both the projects and the students. While it may take some effort on the part of the OSS community to bring students up to speed, students bring many advantages to the table including a larger pool of volunteers, a potentially more diverse development community, relieving more experienced developers from repetitive tasks, and added incentive to complete tasks due to grading requirements. In addition, students are supported in their participation by the academic infrastructure so that they are not relying solely on the OSS community for learning. OSS projects can serve as a training ground for future OSS developers, integrating students into the OSS community while still in school.

Open source provides an exciting opportunity for computing education by providing a range of different types of projects that students can become involved in. The benefits of participation in OSS projects are myriad for the student including exposure to an on-going, complex application, professional growth, improved technical and communication skills, better understanding of development in a distributed environment and many more.

The typical view of student contributions to OSS projects is in the form of code contributions. However, students with a range of backgrounds can contribute to an OSS project in ways other than adding code. Some of these ways include testing, documentation, bug validation, internationalization/translation of documentation, exploring and detailing feature requests, usability assessment, accessibility assessment, penetration assessment and reverse engineering requirements and design from code.

In order to facilitate the involvement of students in OSS projects, there is a need for identifying and recruiting mentors from the OSS projects. Such mentors would provide a gateway into OSS projects for both students and professors by supplying entree into the development environment and community. An online clearinghouse would be an ideal solution for matching students and opportunities posted by mentors and maintainers of OSS projects.

This talk will cover the dual perspectives of student and OSS community with respect to student contributions to OSS projects. The variety of different ways that students can become involved in a OSS project will be discussed as well as the benefits and roadblocks to student involvement from both perspectives. The talk will also address the “fit” of student expectation and skills with the OSS community needs and expectations. The intended audience for this talk is OSS developers and project leaders and academics interested in involving students in OSS.

Photo of Heidi Ellis

Heidi Ellis

Western New England University

Heidi Ellis has been active in software engineering education for the past 15 years. She is PI on the NSF-funded project "SoftHum: StudentParticipation in the Community of Open Source Software for Humanity,” which is investigating the development of course materials to support student open source participation within the classroom. She has been involved with the Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) project (hfoss.org) which
has a goal of building a community for supporting the involvement of students in
HFOSS projects since its inception and has multiple publications related to involving students in HFOSS projects.

Photo of Gregory Hislop

Gregory Hislop

Drexel University

Gregory Hislop is a professor of software engineering and senior associate dean at Drexel University’s College of Computing and Informatics. Gregory has been working on student involvement in open source through a series of NSF grants in partnership with Red Hat. He also spent about 20 years working in the industry, primarily in enterprise systems management products and services. Gregory is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops.

Photo of Luis Ibanez

Luis Ibanez


Luis Ibáñez received a B.S. in Physics from the Universidad Industrial de Santander (Bucaramanga, Colombia) in 1989 and a M.S. in Optics from the same university in 1994. He received a D.E.A and Ph.D. degrees from the Universite de Rennes I (Rennes, France) in 1995 and 2000, respectively.

During his Ph.D., Luis Ibáñez was member of the LATIM laboratory at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Telecommunications de Bretagne (Brest, France) and was interested in the segmentation of bone joint structures of the limbs for the purpose of studying the relationship between morphology and functionality. He also participated in a project for developing collaborative virtual environments for medical applications.
In 1999, Luis Ibáñez joined the Division of Neurosurgery of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and participated as a member of the MIDAG and CADDLab groups. His work at UNC was related to the development of algorithms for 2 and 3D registration applied to image guided surgery. He also participated as developer of the INSIGHT Registration and Segmentation Toolkit sponsored by the National Library of Medicine.

Luis Ibáñez joined Kitware, Inc. in February 2002 where his is one of the main developers of the Insight Toolkit (ITK) coordinating its maintenance with other developers and the user community; he is also one of the main developers of the Image Guided Surgery Toolkit (IGSTK) and participated in crafting the operational principles of the Insight Journal. Luis Ibáñez is a strong supporter of Open Access, and the verification of reproducibility in scientific publications and is a regular speaker in ITK training courses, and in events disseminating the principles of Open Source.

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Rackspace Hosting
  • (mt) Media Temple, Inc.
  • ActiveState
  • CommonPlaces
  • DB Relay
  • FireHost
  • GoDaddy
  • HP
  • HTSQL by Prometheus Research
  • Impetus Technologies Inc.
  • Infobright, Inc
  • JasperSoft
  • Kaltura
  • Marvell
  • Mashery
  • NorthScale, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • OpSource
  • Oracle
  • Parallels
  • PayPal
  • Percona
  • Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc.
  • Rhomobile
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • SourceGear
  • Symbian
  • VoltDB
  • WSO2
  • Linux Pro Magazine

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