International students team up with Berkman Klein mentors to learn open source development


This summer six students from around the world remotely worked on the development of open source projects with mentorship from members of the Berkman Klein community through the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) program.

by Daniel Oyolu
This summer six students from around the world remotely worked on the development of open source projects with mentorship from members of the Berkman Klein community through the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) program. Designed to introduce students to the development of open source software (or software whose code is openly available to be viewed, altered, or improved), the program pays selected students a stipend to work as interns at organizations supporting open source software projects.
While separate from the Berkman Klein Center’s flagship on-site Summer Internship Program, the GSoC program is similar in that it aligns with and furthers the Center’s commitments to education, diversity, and network-building.
“The GSoC initiative matches the Berkman Klein Center’s mission of building out into cyberspace and making tools freely available to the public and researchers,” said Ellen Popko, the staff technologist who oversees the Berkman Klein Center’s involvement with GSoC. “The program allows students to acquire real world working experience as they learn about workflows, development cycles, and working with developers.”
The students worked on several projects under the guidance of Berkman Klein community members:

  • Dongge Liu, a master’s student of software engineering at the University of Melbourne in Australia, used machine learning to implement topic creation in Media Cloud, a joint project of the Berkman Klein Center and the MIT Media Lab that is an open-source platform for studying media ecosystems. Liu was mentored by Linas Valiukas, a former GSOC student who has continued to work remotely with the Berkman Klein Center from Lithuania on Media Cloud for the past five years.   (Read more about this work on GitHub.)
  • Gaurav Koley, obtaining his master’s in information technology at the International Institute of Information Technology in Bangalore, India, worked on the Berkman Klein Center’s BookANook project with support from Berkman Klein mentors Jessica Yurkofsky and Justin Clark. BookANook is an open source tool that makes it easier for users to reserve a room in community spaces, like a study room in a library. Gaurav worked to improve the tool’s overall user interface. (Learn more about this project on GitHub.)
  • Morgan Gangwere, a communications student at the University of New Mexico, worked under the mentorship of Berkman Klein affiliate Jason Griffey on the LibraryBox project. The LibraryBox website describes itself as an “open source, portable digital file distribution tool that enables delivery of vital information to individuals with no internet.” (Read more about this work on GitHub.)
  • Kumar Shubham, a computer science and engineering student at VIT University in Chennai, India, worked on the Teem project, an application that allows potential collaborators to connect with community projects they would like to support, under the supervision of Berkman Klein fellow Samer Hassan and Antonio Tenorio-Fornés. This summer Kumar helped make Teem more open and connected to other popular online services by implementing a contextual link preview, embedding functions, and sharing functions across various social media platforms. (Read more about this work on GitHub.)
  • David Llop, a master’s student studying security in ICT at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, worked with the SwellRT team with direction from Berkman Klein fellow Samer Hassan and Pablo Ojanguren. He helped provide end-to-end encryption to SwellRT in order to enhance user privacy. (Read more about this work on GitHub.)

To participate in the GSoC program, a potential mentor organization applies to and must be accepted by the Google Open Source Office. Students then propose projects directly to the mentor organization, which then selects the students it would like to work with. Students must be currently enrolled in a university program and eligible to work in their home country.  If they meet all the obligations over the course of the internship, they receive a stipend from Google.
This summer, the program accepted more than 200 mentor organizations, of which just a handful are academic institutions.
"We are excited to provide an opportunity for rising coders to work on academic research with open source principles,” said Sebastian Diaz, Director of Technology at the Berkman Klein Center. “Academic groups are building and sharing cool things, too.”
The Berkman Klein Center first began its involvement with Google Summer of Code in 2010, and since then a handful of GSoC students have continued to work with the Center on a variety of projects. In addition to Linas Valiukas, who works on Media Cloud, Miriam Marrouf, a 2016 GSoC student from Egypt worked on Internet Monitor and other Berkman Klein projects throughout the past academic year. Chaitanya Choudhary, another 2016 GSoC intern, came to Cambridge this summer from India as a member of our onsite summer internship program. Choudhary continued his development work on the DotPlot tool.
“This program allows us access to student we wouldn’t normally be working with,” said Popko. It’s rewarding to be able to work with students from so many different backgrounds and on a global scale.”
GSoC student Morgan Gangwere said he has enjoyed the mentorship aspect of the program. “Jason [Griffey] is a fantastic mentor, giving me a huge amount of support on keeping me on track and getting things done,” he said.  Morgan worked to move LibraryBox over to a new kind of hardware, the Raspberry Pi.
“This will do a huge number of things for the project,” said Griffey. “It frees us from the whims of commercial hardware that we've been using and that has become increasingly locked-down and hard to customize, it gives users a more powerful platform to build new and exciting customizations on, and it gives the project itself the ability to start fresh with a new architecture that we can use in different ways to meet the needs of our users.”
You can read more about the GSoC Summer 2017 projects from the students’ perspectives on the Geek Cave blog.