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6 colleges turning out open source talent

Sandra Gittlen | May 3, 2016
Most IT departments have project roadmaps that will require open-source skills, but finding recent college grads with open source talent can be challenging.

Some students might be hired on (either for coop or post-graduation) in engineering roles. Others, he says, need to know about open source to be business consultants or to hold other broader roles. “At the end of the day, open source in and of itself is about process and community, not about specific technical skills,” he says.

3. Michigan Technological University

Joshua Pearce went to open source as a primary tool for his 3-D printing class after his go-to proprietary gateway vendor was bought out and the product was canceled. Pearce had built an entire research program on that software and vowed never to get stuck like that again. “I was left with a paperweight,” Pearce says.

Today his students use open source modeling languages such as OpenSCAD and the RepRap open source 3-D printing community to build and enhance an open-source 3-D printer. “All students are asked to make some significant improvement to the printer itself,” he says.

His open-source, hands-on approach is appealing to local employers such as Ford and GM, which look to hire his students into additive manufacturing jobs. “The concern within industry is that things taught in universities are too pie in the sky and not applicable. We have a longstanding reputation of creating ‘bloody-knuckled’ tech engineers who dive into the code,” he says, adding the school has strong industry-university partnerships.

4. Purdue University

When Sabine Brunswicker came to Purdue University in 2013, she brought with her the notion that open source should be a priority. “It took effort to expose students to the principles of open source and open innovation,” she says.

Open source plays an integral role in her research and classroom instruction. Her students “don’t just focus on coding,” she says. “They also learn how to act in the open-source community and how to make contributions.”

Open source needs to be embedded in the skill sets of all individuals so they can understand its implications for the organization.

Sabine Brunswicker, associate professor for Innovation and director of the Research Center for Open Digital Innovation

Anyone who works in a technology-related area, in her opinion, should know how to work with open source. “Open source is important for software engineers and developers but also the managerial levels,” she says. She points to those making purchasing decisions in an organization, lawyers and project managers as examples of non-technical positions that should understand the principles of open source.

Her researchers, who used to use proprietary statistics programs, also depend on open-source alternatives such as R. 

“Open source needs to be embedded in the skill sets of all individuals so they can understand its implications for the organization,” she says. To prepare future leaders, system designers, and engineers for working the ‘open source’ way, she was instrumental in the creation of a new master’s program in the area of open and digital innovation. 


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