Google Summer of Code & OpenIntents

This year was the first year OpenIntents participated in the Google Summer of Code. We are an open source organization which creates software for Android mobile phones and tablets, with special emphasis on interoperability with other software components.

As an organization we’ve found involvement in the Google Summer of Code extremely rewarding. The students have been able to improve their skills and gain practical experience in the stages of a software project, our organization has benefited from the interest generated from the students’ work, and the wider community will continue to benefit from the code the students have delivered.

We particularly enjoyed the international aspect of the program. All students, mentors, and co-mentors lived in different countries which did not prevent us from having a great time discussing the projects through Skype and live chat sessions. We received a great number of excellent proposals, from which two very different projects were chosen for the program.

Elena Burceanu’s project aimed to enhance the Sensor Simulator. During the first weeks, the GUI was polished, both in appearance and through clever code restructuring. After enhancing the GUI the number of supported sensors was increased and now includes Android sensors for gyroscope and general rotation vector. Finally, a scenario simulator was added, which creates sensor output from a set of initial states and the ability to change the time intervals between them. The sensor’s values are smoothly interpolated between the key frames. The final product was released as version 2.0. The source code and documentation for Elena’s project are now available to view.

Andras Berke’s project consists of a new application called Historify which displays the user’s activities with others over a variety of communication methods (Voice, SMS, Facebook, etc.), and provides a method for third party applications to supply other activity events showing the interoperability of Android applications. During the summer Andras went through the whole application design process from the UI wireframes to a first beta release including documentation along the way. In addition, he provided demo applications to show how third party developers can interact with Historify. You can now view the source code and documentation from Andras’ summer project.

Flip Bits not Burgers, the Student Guide

The Google Summer of Code Mentor Manual, published before the 2009 Mentor Summit, was an effort to help mentors choose the best students and get them involved in the open source community. The Mentor Manual had some extremely useful tips on how organizations can make the best use of the program, so in 2010 the authors printed a new edition that has tips for organization administrators as well!

When you have a manual for the mentors and org admins, it’s only fair and logical to have one for the students as well. After all, they’re the ones who need the most help preparing for and working on Google Summer of Code! So the authors of the Mentor Manual decided to write a Student Manual in the days before the 2010 Mentor Summit, and they realized it would be a good idea to get input from students. This is where I enter the scene–I was a Google Summer of Code student for the Systers organization in 2009, and a mentor for Systers in 2010. Jennifer Redman, my mentor in 2009 and co-author of the original Mentor Manual, suggested that I participate in the book sprint for the Student Manual so I could share my first-hand experience as a student.

We wanted the Student Manual to be the one stop shop for all the questions that students might have about Google Summer of Code. The manual has great insights for students before, during and after the program. These include:

• How to decide whether or not to apply for Google Summer of Code
• Getting code reviews and handling feedback
Interacting with mentors
Staying involved after the program ends

The book also has some very useful advice on making first contact with the mentoring organization, appreciating the open source culture, and most importantly, writing good project proposals.

Who can give better advice on writing good proposals for Google Summer of Code than the people who would actually evaluate them? I think the suggestions on how to write a good proposal, straight from the mentors, is something that makes the book extremely useful for the students. The book also has suggestions on selecting the projects that you should consider applying for, how to manage your time better, and how to get the most from your mentor and Google Summer of Code–there’s even a section on what to do if you’re not selected. This goes extremely well with the spirit of Google Summer of Code where one of the goals is to get students involved in open source projects irrespective of them being Google Summer of Code students or not. I guess I can go on and on about the book and the chapters, so a better option might be to check out the book and see for yourself:

Google Summer of Code Student Manual Authors, photo by Selena Deckelmann

We have made a sincere effort to include as much useful advice and as many helpful suggestions in the book as possible, and in true open source style, there is an editable version available, so if you feel that something is missing in the manual, you can make a contribution to it!

Google Earth: a window to greater learning

We love hearing stories about how people all over the world use Google Earth. Richard Allaway, a teacher at the International School of Geneva – Campus des Nations, recently shared his thoughts on the importance of Google Earth in his classroom. With Google Earth, Richard is able to create a unique experience in which he and his students can travel the world, exploring everywhere from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to the peaks of the Smoky Mountains. We loved his story so much, we want to share it with you too!

Here’s what Richard had to say:

There are two windows in my classroom. One window looks past the buildings of the International Labour Organization, Geneva’s Jet d’Eau, and onwards to the Alps.

Google Earth’s representation of the view from Richard’s classroom window

Through the other window we can see Mount Etna, the meanders of the Mississippi, all the way to the buildings of Ancient Rome and even significant earthquakes that have happened in the last seven days. This “other” window is Google Earth.

I am a humanities teacher at the International School of Geneva – Campus des Nations working with students ages 11 to 18 years old. But Google Earth is an important tool in any teacher’s toolbox because it provides a free and accessible gateway to far-off places. I use Google Earth to enhance my students’ learning opportunities and help them better understand the places we discuss. From our classroom, we can visit the landscapes that we can’t normally see through the limited viewpoint of a real window.

For example, we’ve taken a tour through the limestone landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales in the United Kingdom. Guided by a Google Earth tour and supporting worksheet, my students explored the unique limestone features and saw for themselves how geological processes shape our environments.

To study the possible eruption of Mount Rainier in the American northwest, we used Google Earth to visualize the hazards and the corresponding management strategies. Students were then challenged to use Google Earth or Maps to plan an escape route for what is considered to be a low-probability, but high-consequence event.

Information in Google Earth about Mount Rainier is the website I use to organize and deliver my teaching resources. Students can access it from any location, whether they’re at the library, at home, on their computers and on their smart phones. It’s a continually developing project, but also a service that I welcome my fellow educators to use to help support their own lesson planning.

We love hearing inspirational stories like Richard’s, so if you want to share a cool experience you’ve had using Google Earth, tell us – we’re listening!

Posted by Vaishaly Shah, Google Earth Team