Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Leslie Hawthorn, the Program Manager for Google's Summer of Code. For those of you not familiar with the project,
Google Summer of Code is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects. We have worked with several open source, free software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund several projects over a three month period. Since its inception in 2005, the program has brought together nearly 2500 successful student participants and 2500 mentors from 98 countries worldwide, all for the love of code.
This year, Google expects to accept 1000 college students into the program, up from 400 students in its first year. Although the program saw 1175 participants last year, Ms. Hawthorn noted that so many students can dilute the experience a bit and felt that Google had really optimized the number this year.
While open source development is usually done on a volunteer basis, students who successfully complete their project with their mentor can earn up to $4500. The experience, though, can lead to important exposure in industrial and academic sectors. Last year, for example, one participant wrote a single sign-on application for grid computing and was subsequently invited to be a visiting lecturer at the University of Indiana, Urbana-Champaign.
Students can begin applying today. Previous projects have included work on open source content management systems like Joomla!, the Linux Kernel, work with the Apache Foundation, and version control systems.
The mentors assigned to each project are varied, coming both from within Google and from the international community. Since many Googlers also volunteer their time working on open source development, they often become involved. However, Ms. Hawthorn characterized Google as more of a broker between students and mentors.
Obviously, the Summer of Code is quite an opportunity for students to augment their traditional computer science education and to develop important contacts, both social and professional. Ms. Hawthorn had several words of advice for applicants. In particular, she suggested that students be willing to jump feet first into a project and demonstrate a real passion for their work. Students who show drive and curiosity will be most successful and are encouraged to explore a project of their own creation.