Possibility of having small FOSS projects in introductory CS courses

Manish Goregaokar manishsmail at gmail.com
Fri Aug 1 07:12:55 UTC 2014

So this semester some rather interesting things are planned for the CS101
course taught by Professor DB Phatak
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepak_B._Phatak> (a great supporter of FOSS)
in my university.

One thing that caught my eye was that there were discussions for allowing
students to contribute to FOSS as their 30% credit group project. Usually
people make terminal-tic-tac-toe or games like minesweeper if graphics was
taught, but this seems like a novel idea. Contributing to FOSS isn't *hard*,
just intimidating, and the intimidation can be bypassed if you have a
framework of professors and TAs around you.

As of now, nothing has been planned, but the idea is that students are
allowed to form a larger group (perhaps with modular subgroups if the
project is complex) and work on a reasonably sized C++ project in open
source (the project can also be a set of smaller contributions). Obviously
most "student projects" are unsuitable for this; those are usually
semester-long projects for experienced students. Most "good first bug" are
on the other end of the spectrum -- while they might take a week to solve,
they're not really project material.

Are there any such (preferably C++) projects/bugs that we have in Firefox
that could conceivably be solved by first year students doing an
introductory course? Many of these students have learned some C++ (or Java)
in school, which might help.

If this works here, we might be able to create a better framework for other
univs to try the same ("good first student project"? :P ). I love the idea
of getting people involved in FOSS early on in the learning process -- at
this stage students are not yet really that intimidated since everything
else is just as new.

Thoughts? Bugs?

-Manish Goregaokar (Manishearth)
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