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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Coding takes center stage for Open Source Day

 Senior Reilly Tucker Siemens, a computer science major, helps out sophomore computer science student Alex Benedetto on an encrypted email program called keymail on Saturday, May 9, during the Open Source Day event in Viking Union 565. // Photo by Jake Tull
Senior Reilly Tucker Siemens, a computer science major, helps out sophomore computer science student Alex Benedetto on an encrypted email program called keymail on Saturday, May 9, during the Open Source Day event in Viking Union 565. // Photo by Jake Tull

Students got a taste of producing technology for professional companies and gaining experience in computer coding at Western’s Open Source Day.

For the first time, Western hosted an Open Source Day on Saturday, May 9, to give students an opportunity for students to gain experience in this skill as a collaborative effort between the Association for Women in Computing and the Association for Computing Machinery.

Open Source Day was a general introduction to what open source is and how to work with it, providing skills that can be used on a resume. With open source, companies can distribute the duties of web maintenance to anyone and cut company spending by not relying on a designated person who knows coding.

Sophomore Alex Benedetto, a computer science major and activities coordinator for the ASM, helped with promoting the event by designing posters and contacting press outlets. Benedetto said he believes the event will look great on a resume because it offers hands-on experience. 

“This is a great thing for the students,” Benedetto said. “This gives people the ability to see what it would actually be like to code in an actual real life situation for an actual project rather than just a lab.”

Adding code to a program with open source can be for improvement purposes, as well as problem solving. Since open source relates to free and open software, anyone who understands how to use it can add code to contribute and improve the software, junior and computer science major Alyssa Pavao said.

During Open Source Day, participants split up into groups to work on open source projects that were brought in by the sponsors and mentors of the event. The company Research on Knowing was one of the 23 mentors of the event and brought a project called Language of Languages. This taught participants how to understand different computer programming languages such as C or C++, which are responsible for organizing the instructions for a program.

The Language of Languages project was at one of the tables at the event, while others featured different projects from different sponsors.

Projects included having students work with programs like an encrypted email platform, which protects information from being read by unwanted people. Participants worked on laptops to find problems in the programs’ coding and work to fix them, Pavao said.

Andrea Frost, a masters student in the computer science department, was one of the people in charge of putting on the event. Frost said the goal of Open Source Day was to establish an open and collaborative event for anyone interested in gaining open source experience for future use.

“Open Source Day is really geared toward beginners,” Frost said. “There are all different levels of projects, so you can be a beginner and find something or be a really advanced person and find something too.”

Frost said there was no pressure to perform or succeed. The event was meant for group collaboration and learning.

Phillip Nordwall, a representative of the Seattle data storage company EMC Isilon, was one of the mentors for Open Source Day.

With laptops open and source code on the screens, students examined open source programs and reported any problems they found in Nordwall’s project. From there, students learned how to identify programming bugs and contributed toward fixing them.

“It’s a chance for students to distinguish themselves from their peers,” Nordwall said. the event gave students an opportunity to work with businesses and establish long-term connections because everyone works as a team with the projects, Nordwall said.

Senior Kelly Lyon, a math major and computer science minor, works as the outreach team coordinator for the AWC. After Open Source Day, changes to an open source program made during the event will remain in effect for the sponsored projects. 

“Outside of school, employers want you to have projects that you work on the side,” Lyon said.

With open source knowledge people have potential to make changes to their favorite apps, Lyon said.

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