Contributing to a New Open Source Track at Penn Apps 2019

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Penn Apps is one of the nation’s largest student-run hackathons. This year they launched a new “open source track” that encouraged contributions to open source software. I was delighted to take part in both mentoring and judging this new track.

Omar presenting on some of the ideals that motivate open source software, as well as the challenges of putting these ideals into practice. He proudly dons his “Penn Apps Mentor” hat.

I gave a short talk about what it’s like to maintain a large open source project as part of our core business, similar to the guest lecture I had given at Swarthmore college earlier this year. I spoke alongside James McClain from Azavea, who emphasized how getting your open source contribution accepted isn’t just a matter of its technical merit. Learning how to advocate for the value of your contribution is a big part of it as well. In a way, contributing to open source is a bit more like lobbying to pass a new law that everyone has to agree on, as opposed to adding a new brick onto a collectively-built structure.

I also ran into Brandon who had just finished his internship here at Cesium just a few weeks ago! Below is an image of the “smart walker” his team developed to help its elderly users navigate safely.

Brandon Barker (purple shirt) and his team demonstrating a smart walker prototype, designed to help its elderly users navigate safely. Brandon finished his internship at Cesium just a few weeks ago.

Most students focused on creating new projects as opposed to contributing to existing open source software, but we’re excited to see this new track grow and encourage contributions that everyone can build on and benefit from.

If working on open source software and contributing to these types of community events sounds like fun, check out our careers page. Come help us push our vision forward of an open ecosystem for 3D geospatial data.

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