RALEIGH, N.C.— Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT), the world's leading provider of open source solutions, has partnered with Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to introduce open source to collegiate-level students, arming the next generation of workers with skills necessary to compete in a challenging global work and social environment. Through the Red Hat-sponsored Professors' Open Source Summer Experience (POSSE) workshops, RIT has enhanced its open source efforts, and some of its students are using their open source expertise to make a positive impact for deaf and hard of hearing children.
Three RIT students, who are also POSSE alumni, have developed a proof of concept for Open Video Chat for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptop. OLPC's mission is to empower the world's poorest children through education, and the organization provides children with rugged, low-cost, connected XO laptops. The RIT student team, comprised of Justin Lewis, Fran Rogers and Taylor Rose, created an XO-based open source prototype video chat package able to produce the quality of video required for smooth signed communication previously unavailable on the XO. OLPC recently updated to a maintained version of Fedora, a Red Hat-sponsored and community-supported open source distribution, that contains updates to critical applications used in developing Open Video Chat including Telepathy, Farsight and Gstreamer. RIT plans to continue to develop Open Video Chat in classes scheduled for fall 2011.
"POSSE has been a large driving force behind RIT's continued introduction of open source to its faculty and their coursework and curriculum," said Stephen Jacobs, associate professor, Interactive Games and Media at RIT and organizer of POSSE at RIT. "We established FOSS@RIT as a way for students, staff and faculty from all of our colleges to engage around open source projects and events on campus. POSSE has been a natural extension of FOSS@RIT, and open source is making a lasting and great impact on RIT's students across the disciplines."
The Open Video Chat project emerged from a partnership between RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf's Center on Access Technology (NTID) and FOSS@RIT. NTID provided seed funds for an initial version during the spring of 2010 and the students were awarded Undergraduate Research Fellowships to continue development over the summer of 2010. Their summer work kicked off with attendance at RIT's POSSE to further their open source expertise and skills. The Open Video Chat team was awarded Digital Rochester's first G.R.E.A.T! student achievement award in February 2011 for leadership and skill in applying or advancing innovative technology for the betterment of themselves, their educational institution, and the greater Rochester Community.
"Red Hat congratulates Justin Lewis, Fran Rogers, Taylor Rose and the entire open source community at RIT on their work to harness the power of open source in the classroom and apply it to the world around them to effect positive change," said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO, Red Hat. "The Open Video Chat project has the potential to open doors for many deaf and hard of hearing children to better communicate. RIT's collaboration with POSSE and its students' interest in open source serves as an inspiration, and we look forward to working with RIT to encourage innovation in the future within FOSS communities."
"I admire the values of the open source community," said Justin 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 inspiration comes from my own experiences with technology as a kid — the excitement of tinkering with computers and gadgets and figuring out how they work, and programming computers to do imaginative things," said Fran Rogers. "I'd like to keep this tinkering spirit alive for future generations — one of the primary reasons I'm an enthusiastic supporter of the FOSS community, which aims to preserve the freedom to tinker with software and keep the spirit of innovation alive."
"My motivation comes from helping others," said Taylor 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."
RIT will host its second POSSE June 20-24, 2011. It is open to all local and regional professors from other colleges and universities. Last year's POSSE at RIT included professors from three different colleges and universities and the goal is to extend the 2011 POSSE to reach even more academic institutions. If you're interested in attending POSSE at RIT this summer or in hosting a POSSE workshop, please visit http://teachingopensource.org/POSSE.
For more information on RIT's work in FOSS, visit http://foss.rit.edu/2010 or http://opensource.com/education/11/2/looking-forward-sweet-new-year-selling-open-source.
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