Thursday, March 06, 2014

Google Summer of Code 2014 meetup at Ghent University

Wednesday evening, March 5th, 19u, about 30 students of Ghent university (Belgium) showed up for an info session about Google Summer of Code 2014. Some of them already heard about it, but for most of them it was new.

Google Summer of Code is a yearly initiative of Google, this year held for the 10th time, to introduce students in higher education to Open Source development, by offering them a stipend of 5500 USD for 12 weeks of coding on an Open Source project during the summer. It gives the students realworld experience, writing code that will be used by many users worldwide, collaborating with the teams of the Open Source organisation they will contribute to, improving their teamwork and communication skills.

After a brief introduction about the program, 4 (of the 190 selected for GSoC 2014) Open Source organisations presented themselves.

Sage is an Open Source collection of mathematical tools, ranging from solving differential equations to plotting functions. Some of their projects this year focus on improving the user interface, but there is also a need for adding mathematical tools, fe. for knot theory.

GNU Octave is also related to mathematics, but is mostly used for simulations and numerical computations. Their ideas pages contains several projects, one of them is adding a library for doing finite element simulations.
Both these projects are interesting for students with an affinity for maths and programming, but also for students wanting to improve the GUI or add other supporting tools.

Next up was the phpMyAdmin project, a webbased user interface for MySQL databases. Having participated to GSoC for many years, the list of projects to work on range from improving the AJAX error reporting tool that was added in GSoC 2013, to also report PHP errors, over a tool to normalize and check the structure of a database to interface improvements. If you are proficient in PHP or JavaScript and interested in databases, one of these projects might be for you.

MuseScore was the last project to present itself. It is a free and Open Source music annotation software, but there is also a version for tablets and an online music sheet library to share your compositions. Their ideas for this year's GSoC range from support for visually impaired users to tools for adding lyrics to a music score. Interested students should be proficient with C++ and Qt.

All projects mentioned that communicating with the development team and the mentors, using either the IRC channel or the mailing list is very important and the best way to get into contact with them.

At the reception afterwards, the mentors of the Open Source projects talked to the students answering their questions about GSoC, on how to apply, how to write a good proposal, and many more question that are also answered in the GSoC FAQ.

Thanks to the Open Source organisations (SAGE, GNU Octave, phpMyAdmin and MuseScore) for their talks and sharing their experience, and to the student associations (VTK, Zeus WPI, Ceneka) and UGent for their help in organising the event.