Students Choose Code Over Summer

Twenty four students from all over New Zealand were at Catalyst's Wellington office in January 2014, learning about open source software development while many of their peers spent time at the beach.

The group of thirteen girls and eleven boys from eleven different schools around the country were part of the fourth annual Catalyst Open Source Academy. The Academy ran from 6 to 17 January and gave the students an introduction to open source software development through a combination of classroom sessions and hands-on project work.

Three of the students returned after participating in the three-day Arduino Academy that Catalyst ran in July last year, where they learned how to work with the open source electronic prototyping platform.

"The 2014 intake of students marked a significant step up in terms of prior knowledge of, and experience with open source technologies.

"This reflects the growing acceptance of open source as the standard for innovative and accessible software development. It also presents Catalyst with a real challenge in designing a programme that stretches and engages these students. It's a great problem to have," said Don Christie, Catalyst Director.

The students spent the first week in a series of sessions with fourteen different tutors, covering a wide range of technologies and topics that formed the base for the second week, where they each contributed actively to an existing open source project. The students could choose from Drupal, Koha, Mahara, and Piwik. One group of students decided to create an app for Firefox OS instead, as they had learned about that operating system in the first week. By the end of the two weeks, the students had contributed over 50 changes to the software programmes that they had chosen to work with.

"The goal in the second week is to work with the students and help them have code committed to open source projects, including Drupal, Koha, Mahara and Piwik. It is a real achievement to know that you have made a contribution to a project that is being used by millions of people around the world.

"In running the Academy, we want to help these students to participate in open source communities and support them to explore their passion for IT through freely available open source tools.

"We also hope to attract more talented Kiwis into the IT profession, and particularly to meet the growing demand for open source technology across the public and private sectors, both here in New Zealand and internationally, Christie said.

Participants from Wellington East Girls' College;
Photo by Kristina Hoeppner (CC BY-SA)
See more photos here