Undergraduate computer science student
On January 16th, filled with anxiety and anticipation, I boarded a plane in Regina off to San Jose. I was heading to Facebook headquarters for the Open Source Curriculum Modernization Hackathon with the Undergraduate Capstone Open Source Projects (UCOSP ) Program. The UCOSP program brings together students from universities across Canada to work on an open source project for a university class credit. In my case, that course is CS490CN with Daryl Hepting. It gives students an opportunity to get hands-on experience in a distributed software development environment, working with tools and best practices that are not commonly taught at the university level. Students also learn the importance of time management and diligence, as they are responsible in managing their own time accordingly throughout the semester. What I didn’t realize when I applied for the program was how great the opportunity was and how life changing the experience would be. I had learned so much over such a short period of time! The hackathon was held on January 18th-20th. I met students from all skill-levels and technical backgrounds, and I made some of the greatest friends at the same time.
Each student was matched with another student of the same gender to share a hotel room. The girl I was paired with was from the University of Manitoba and she was one of the best people to share a room with. We were both nervous about the next morning and felt we would be the stupidest people in the room. It was great to get to know someone before the hackathon even began and share the victories and defeats of the days to come.
I met my team, Umple, which happened to be one of the smallest teams out of the whole hackathon, but it ended up working in our favour. Instead of being like most teams consisting of twelve to twenty people, we were a mere five. After talking to other students on other teams, I realized how lucky I really was. Instead of sort of knowing a few people and struggling to remember names from a large team, I had a chance to get well acquainted with everyone on my team including our team lead. We were comfortable helping one another get past programming issues and had a laugh while doing it. My team lead was intimidating at first, but I realized the second day that he was just so passionate about his work. It’s not very often you get to meet someone leading a project who is programming and debugging the same software you are contributing to! His enthusiasm and energy was inspiring and quite contagious!
We also had the opportunity to meet a few people who worked at Facebook over some board games and have a tour of the campus. I got to meet some of the mentors of other projects and other students from other teams. I met students from Finland, Poland, Japan and China who came to Facebook with the international version of the UCOSP program. I was learning a new thing every minute, whether it was a new name and a background story or an aspect of a team’s project.
On the last day, we had our final hour of hacking away at our projects and preparing our presentation to all the other groups in attendance. I saw presentations from well-known names such as Eclipse, Mozilla, Blackberry and MongoDB. I must mention that Facebook fed us extremely well! I could write a whole blog post just on that! They were the BEST hosts to us. They catered to our every need and even gave us some swag at the end of it all. How kind of them! The whole experience was very stressful, but very rewarding at the same time. It is definitely one I will never forget. I’m glad a few certain courses under my belt before going to the hackathon. Having taken CS203, CS215, CS330 and CS350 made a substantial difference. I don’t want to discredit any of the other CS courses as they ALL helped me in some way, building a strong foundation to where I am at today. Another course that I think would be very useful is CS372, which I am taking concurrently with CS490CN. I miss San Francisco and the Bay Area already. Until we meet again, Silicon Valley, until we meet again.