Open source communties + engineering education = great justice
by Mel Chua
- 2,142 views
An Ignite presentation at Engineer of the Future 3.0 given by Sebastian Dziallas and Mel Chua. Slide text and photo attributions below. ...
An Ignite presentation at Engineer of the Future 3.0 given by Sebastian Dziallas and Mel Chua. Slide text and photo attributions below.
== Slide text ==
5 minutes. A ballroom full of administrators, faculty, and students looking for ways to transform student engagement in engineering education. They may vaguely have heard of open source before, but you've got 20 slides to convince them that it's actionable. What would you tell them? Here's what Mel Chua and I did last weekend at the Engineer of the Future conference. We'll ask you to share your own rocket pitches afterwards.
Sebastian: This is Mel. She studied engineering in college and got involved in the academic world first, then started working in open source communities. She'll be speaking from the academic side of the house tonight.
Mel: This is Sebastian. He's spent the last three years doing release engineering in the open source world. Now he's starting his academic career as an undergraduate. He'll be speaking from the open source side of the house tonight.
Sebastian: Our thesis tonight is that engineering education and open source are both communities of practice that have much to learn from each other.
Our Thesis: Engineering + Open source = Great Justice
Mel: In academia, we want to get students involved in distributed, large-scale, real-world projects for actual users. We want them to work on stuff that makes a difference, and we want them to work with people who are good at what they do, and who love what they do - projects folks who are passionate. Where do we find these projects?
Student reaching for the stars
Sebastian: In the open source world, we are these projects. We work with thousands of people from around the world to impact millions on projects that are software, but also movies, or books, or hearing aids.
Open Prosthetics graphic
Mel: One thing that academia is good at is building scaffolding; it's really quite remarkable to take hundreds of students with different backgrounds who are new to a field, and a few years later, they're practicing in that field. We take lots of new people at once and get them started in a discipline. We call this "teaching."
Students in a lecture hall
Sebastian: On the other hand, open source communities aren't so good at getting new people started. We're hungry for new contributors - and you may be one of them - but the getting-started experience might be confusing. You might feel lost. Sometimes we don't know how to handle new people well when they arrive. We don't know how to teach them.
Man lost in a crowd
Mel: In academia, we have credibility. We get pieces of paper that make people think we know things, make them listen to us. The tradeoff is that with credibility comes hierarchy and needing to ask for permission and approval to get "credit."
A college graduation ceremony
Sebastian: On the other hand, in the open source world, we don't have to ask for permission; we just jump right in. Our tools track who does what, but the tradeoff is that we need to convince people over and over again that our projects are actually good.
Mel: You might notice that the needs from one world tend to mesh with the strengths of the other. So what happens when you bring these two worlds together? That's what the members of the Teaching Open Source community are trying to find out. We're a group of open source contribuors and university faculty experimenting with exactly that.
Students at a UPenn hackathon
Sebastian: We have an example. Professor Matt Jadud of Allegheny College brought his human interface design class into Fedora, a project for making a free software operating system. They worked within the community to look at our website design.
A screenshot of the Fedora Website redesign
Mel: So that's bringing open source into the classroom. Last weekend Sebastian and I brought students into open source. A group of software engineering seniors from Hei