FOSSASIA, best known for their Open Technology Event in Asia, is a non-profit organization that supports Free and Open Source Projects that range from Open Source software, to design, graphics and open hardware in Asia and around the world. The aim of FOSSASIA is to develop and adapt new technologies for social change.
Attending FOSSASIA back in Feb-2014 was a life changing experience for me. It was full of fun, joy and a lot of knowledge filled learning experiences. I could meet some of the amazing FOSS contributors, learn lot many things and got inspiration to do something positive and contribute back to the society.
With the encouragement, support and guidance from my mentors Mario Behling and Hong Phuc, I could successfully complete my GSoC-14 Project on ExpEYES – An Open Source Pocket Science Lab. This was an inspiring moment that motivated me to keep learning and contribute to create better learning resources and opportunities for students.
2014 being FOSSASIA’s first year of participating in Google Code-In as a mentoring organization, brought yet another excellent learning opportunity for me and my students. FOSSASIA’s admins Hong Phuc and Mario Behling encouraged me to take part in GCI as a mentor and help Pre-University students to take their first step in the world of FOSS, learn and make tiny little contributions.
I started interacting with the students to spread awareness about GCI. I gave presentations in the classrooms and also tried to communicate with other students through face book. On December 1, 2014 when GCI contest started, most of my tasks were claimed by students from outside India and there was hardly any response from students of my own institute or neighboring pre-university colleges. Very few students participated and they were finding it difficult to complete even beginner level tasks. We decided to explore this situation, find the reasons and do something to motivate the students.
Ours is a small city in South India and we found that the main reason for students not able to participate was lack of IT infrastructure in schools. Less than 1% of high school students have access to computers and Internet. They get a chance to learn coding only in 11th standard, that too if they opt for computer science. In rural India the situation is even worst. I realized that students are willing to participate but are unable to do so because of absolute lack of basic computer skills. Some of those who could participate claimed very simple tasks involving only documentation and none of them claimed tasks with coding.
With the suggestions and guidance from Mario and Hong Phuc, we organized a series of workshops for students on every Saturday, Sunday and on holidays at my house. The first workshop in the series was on “Introduction to Free and Open Source Software” and “Google Code-In”. More than 100 students turned out for the session. We also had a session on installing Gnu/Linux, Libre Office and softwares like Gimp, Inkscape etc… I was happy to see students engaged with FOSS learning till late in the evening even though their final exams were approaching.
The next few workshops/sessions were focused on using FOSS for documentation, basic Image processing, designing, basics of Blogging and Python Programming language. These interactive sessions were of great help in developing confidence and motivating students to participate in GCI. More than 70 students registered for GCI. Many expressed that it was the first time that they could have such hands on experience on computers and that they enjoyed learning and creating with FOSS.
Many of our friends encouraged and helped us by providing laptops, Internet dongles, Projector and most importantly their valuable time during workshops. My best friend (My better half … 🙂 ) Minal Patil took care of snacks for students and also helped in conducting workshops. We even had a GCI session on 25th of December and celebrated Christmas with FOSSASIA and GCI in a different and meaningful way… 🙂
It was amazing to see the happiness on the face of students, who never had any hands-on experience with computer, complete their first GCI task. Many students could complete beginner level tasks related to documentation and outreach. Some could create their blogs and write about themselves and their experience about participating GCI. Few students could also contribute to our Open Source Project ExpEYES – Pocket Science Lab. Some students also worked on an interesting project, initiated by Mario Behling , to create a small website and add details about FOSSASIA’s mentors and students. The project was intended to provide students an opportunity to experience open source development culture. It was a big success with a great website created together by students and mentors.
It was great fun to learning new things everyday along with the students.
The most fulfilling moment came when results were announced on the official Google Open Source Blog.
- My organization FOSSASIA is at No 1, with 587 tasks completed. A total of 174 students completed at least one task with us.
- Our School Govindram Seksaria Science P.U. College, Belgaum (GSS) in India is at No 2, among 397 schools from 53 countries with 49 students completing the tasks.
My Pre-university College management members were happy to know about our success in GCI and encouraged me with felicitation. They have even displayed a banner in the college campus mentioning about FOSSASIA, GCI and success of our student participants. They expressed their wish to have an MOU with FOSSASIA and continue to take such steps to help students from our region to learn to code and contribute to FOSS. They also offered all the infrastructural support.
I am also happy to share that our Grand Prize winners Namanyay Goel and Samarjeet Singh also contributed to Project ExpEYES along with other projects under FOSSASIA. Many other students contributed to the ExpEYES project by writing python code for Unit Conversion GUI’s and by writing documentation for science experiments.
Participating in GCI with FOSSASIA as a mentor was a great learning experience and I would like to thank Hong Phuc and Mario Behling for this wonderful opportunity. You have inspired me to take up this task of helping kids from this region to learn to code, as a lifelong mission. Thanks a billion to all the students who participated in the contest and wish them a great future ahead.
I must also thank Stephanie Taylor and Co. at the Google OSPO, for organizing this wonderful contest and for creating better learning opportunities for students all over the world.
By Praveen Patil, FOSSASIA mentor
Random Pics : Google Code-In with FOSSASIA