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Rochester Institute To Repeat Summer Open Source Instructor Training

Rochester Institute of Technology in New York will be encouraging instructors to develop their skills in open source through participation in workshops sponsored by Red Hat. The Professors' Open Source Summer Experience (POSSE) program is intended for post-secondary computer science or software engineering faculty interested in incorporating open source community participation into their courses. Adjuncts, graduate students, and others are also expected to participate, especially if they teach undergraduates.

A group of Rochester Institute students who went through POSSE training in 2010 developed a proof of concept for a video chat program named Open Video Chat. The program is intended specifically for use with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, which works to provide each child--especially those in developing countries--with an XO, a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected Linux-based laptop.

The RIT student team, made up of Justin Lewis, Fran Rogers, and Taylor Rose, created an open source prototype video chat package able to produce the quality of video required for smooth signed communication previously unavailable on the XO. The One Laptop program recently updated to a maintained version of Fedora, a Red Hat-sponsored and community-supported open source distribution. That version has updates to applications used in developing Open Video Chat, including Telepathy, Farsight, and Gstreamer. Telepathy is a project to create a unified framework for real-time conversations, including video calls; FarSight is an audio/video conferencing framework specifically designed for instant messengers; and Gstreamer is a library for constructing graphs of media-handling components.

"I admire the values of the open source community," said Lewis. "I love the mentality that anyone can join in; using their personal strengths to help the community and at the same time they can receive assistance when they need it. When you put your work out in the open community, you know it might be useful to someone else or find its way into another project."

"My motivation comes from helping others," added Rose. "I like to work on projects that provide tools for others to help themselves. The Open Video Chat project was a start at opening a communication outlet developed for deaf and hard of hearing students in developing countries. Five years from now, I hope to have made an impact on someone else's life. I think the greatest contribution I can make in this world is to provide tools for the next generation."

The Open Video Chat project emerged out of a partnership between Rochester's National Technical Institute for the Deaf's Center on Access Technology (NTID) and the Free & Open Source Software Ecosystem (FOSS@RIT) initiative.

NTID provided seed funds for an initial version during spring 2010, and the students were awarded fellowships to continue development over the summer. Their summer work kicked off with attendance at RIT's POSSE to further their open source expertise and skills.

Rochester will continue development of Open Video Chat in classes scheduled for fall 2011.

RIT will host its second POSSE June 20-24, 2011. It's open to local and regional professors from other colleges and universities. To learn more, visit this site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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