Humanitarian projects bring more students to open source software

I learned about an interesting project at the Grace Hopper conference: the Humanitarian FOSS Project.

The Humanitarian FOSS project is attracting new students to software development by appealing to them with open source humanitarian projects. They’ve had a lot of success over the past two years. They bring all the students together on a university campus, house them, pay them and give them open source software projects to work on. The students have access to each other, professors and remote mentors from the project. Past projects have included working on disaster recovery software, volunteer scheduling software and medical imaging software. Their project is 100% funded by an NFS grant right now although they’d like to have companies fund additional interns in the future.  A huge additional benefit from my perspective is that the humanitarian aspect brings in people that might not traditionally
have been drawn to open source. (They were at the Grace Hopper conference because last summer’s group included quite a few women.)

I had a follow-up phone call with Trishan de Lanerolle, the project director, as well as Professor Ralph Morelli from Trinity College, and they proposed having two students work on GNOME projects next summer! They would find, house and fund the students. GNOME would provide (humanitarian) projects and mentors.

It’s a great offer and I’m thinking GNOME has a lot of great projects that would fit the humanitarian aspect, especially accessibility related projects.