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At the end of March, members of our Fedora Project team set out on the 2008 North American University Tour to spread the word about free software and Fedora. We want to make sure that the important principles of open source software are highlighted in universities around the world as they develop their computer science curriculums that will breed our future software contributors, so we decided to go directly to the source – students and faculty.

We made stops in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, California and lots of places in between – see our full schedule. Basically, our aim was to raise the awareness of Fedora and open source software among the university communities with the hope that many of those that we touched will become active supporters and contributors to the Fedora Project.

We’ve gotten some great feedback from both students and faculty at the Universities where we stopped, and Jack Aboutboul, one of our Community Engineers that has been making the rounds, has some great anecdotes to share about some cool happenings, like Carnegie Mellon planning to install Fedora on computers in its Bill Gates building. Check out the blog about Jack’s travels for more.

Here’s what Jack has to say about the Tour:

The tour is over now and after what seems like a whirlwind of activity, much was accomplished. When you have the chance to fundamentally re-architect modern computer science education in the U.S. you take it! I spoke to many faculty members of some of the greatest computer science schools in the country and even more students and the consensus is, the time is right to begin incorporating open source into both the campus environment and the curriculum.

In places like Carnegie Mellon, Syracuse, Case Western, University of Illinois-Urbana, Purdue and Oregon State, there were large receptions with many eager to hear what I had to say about working, living and breathing community and open source and those even more eager to speak out about how they have been touched by open source, or about some cool open source project and about how building these principles and methodologies into modern computer science curriculums around the country would tremendously benefit students and reshape computer science education. The questions that I was getting weren’t so much, why or should, but how, and that makes me extremely optimistic.

At Syracuse, my Alma Mater, I spoke to a crowded room, including many familiar faces. People who only a few years ago were closed to open source were very open to it now and see value in using and teaching it.

Students at Case Western Reserve University and Purdue were so enthusiastic about my visit and talk, that a group of about 15 students followed me all the way out to my car so that they could keep talking and pose for pictures with me in Fedora T-Shirts.

Oregon State was a very special visit, and I got a firsthand tour of the famous Open Source Lab, and gave two talks - one of them a colloquium to a standing room only crowd! That was an amazing experience. We all knew that OSU was big into open source, but until you are there, on campus, walking with the faculty, admins and students you really don’t get the whole picture.

All in all it was an amazing experience. "I think we really did a lot of good, and effectively measured the feedback in the whole of the academic world with regard to open source and community. I am extremely optimistic that having Linux and open source in every university, whether in a lab or in the classroom will become a reality in the not too distant future.

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