The humanitarian focus of socially useful
projects promises to motivate community-minded undergrads in and out of CS.
BY RALPh moReLLI, ALLen TucKeR, noRmAn DAnneR,
TRIshAn R. De LAneRoLLe, heIDI J.c. eLLIs, ozGuR IzmIRLI,
DAnn Y KRIzAnc, AnD GARY PARKeR
WHAt iF UnDeRGRADUAte students viewed computer
science as, in part, a discipline that designed and built
free software to help one’s friends and neighbors in
need? Would that bring more of them in the front door
of academic computing departments? What sort of
curricular and pedagogical changes
would be required to support such
opportunities for these students?
Would these changes help revitalize
computing curricula and enrollments
throughout the U.S.?
The Humanitarian Free and Open
Source Software (HFOSS) Project is
addressing these questions. The goal
is to help revitalize U.S. undergraduate computing education by engaging students in developing FOSS that
benefits humanity. What started as an
independent study by two undergraduates in 2006, the Project today includes students from a number of U.S.
colleges and universities engaged in a
range of FOSS development projects,
both global and local. Here, we provide an overview of the Project, along
with some of the lessons learned and
the challenges that remain. Our experience over the past three-and-a-half
years suggests that engaging students
in building FOSS that serves society is
a positive step toward strengthening