Code-In winners in San Francisco!

Ubuntu took part in the Google Code-in contest as a mentoring organization last December and January. Google Code-In is a contest for 13–17 year old pre-university students who want to learn more about and get involved with open source. With the help of mentors from all participating organizations, the students completed tasks that had been set up by the organization. In the end, both sides win; the students are introduced to the open source communities (and if they win they get a prize trip and many other benefits) and the mentoring organizations get work done.

The contest itself ended in January 2016, and in June it was time for the grand prize winner’s trip to San Francisco, where I represented Ubuntu as a mentor side. I’m sure you are waiting to hear more, so let’s go!

The Trip

Meet & Greet

On Sunday evening, the trip started with a more or less informal Meet & Greet event, where mentors could have the chance to meet the winners for their organization and the other way around. To recap, the winners for the Ubuntu organization where Matthew Allen from Australia and Daniyaal Rasheed from the United States. Congratulations! They, along with the other winners and many more contestants did great work during the contest and I’m eagerly waiting to see more contributions from then in the future!

The event was indeed a great way to start the trip and let people socialize and get to know each other. The winners were also presented with the first surprise; a Nexus phone for everybody (along with other swag given to the students and mentors)!

The Campus

Heading into the new week and first whole day together in San Francisco, we took some buses from the hotel to the Google campus. After the breakfast, we had some talks by mentors and the award ceremony with Chris DiBona, the director of open source in Google – or quoting the man himself, the “special”. Without further ado, here’s a few photos taken from the ceremony by the lovely Jeremy Allison (thanks!).

After the ceremonies, it was lunchtime. During lunch, students not from the US were hooked up with Googlers from their own home country – cool! Following lunch, we heard a bunch of talks from Googlers, some organization presentations by mentors and visited the Google Store (where all the winners got a gift card to spend on more Google swag) as well as the visitor centre.

Finally after dinner the buses headed back to the hotel for everybody to get some rest and prepare for the next day…

San Francisco activities

Tuesday was the fun day in San Francisco! In the morning, winners had two options: either a Segway Tour around the city or a visit to the Exploratorium science museum. I believe everybody had a nice time and nobody riding the Segways got seriously hurt either.

After getting everybody back together, it was time for some lunch again. We had lunch near the Ghirardelli Square and it was the perfect opportunity to get some nice dessert in ice cream and/or chocolate form for those who wanted it.

When we had finished all the eating, it was time to head for the Golden Gate bridge and surrounding areas (or hotel if you wanted some rest). Some of us walked the bridge (some even all the way to the other side and back), some around the parks nearby, guided by the local Googlers. It was definitely a sunny and windy day at the bridge at least!

After all these activities had been done and being rejoined by the people resting at the hotel, the whole group headed for an evening on a yacht! On the yacht we had a delicious dinner and drinks as well as lot of good discussions. Jeremy was on fire again with his cameras and he got some nice shots, including a mentors-only photo!

The Office

On Wednesday, our last day together, we walked to the Google office in San Francisco. After a wonderful breakfast we were up to more talks by Googlers, the last presentations by mentors, of course some more Google swag, lunch at the terrace, mini-tours inside the office, cake, chocolate, more candies and sweets etc.

Most importantly, the winners, mentors and parents alike had the last chance to get some discussions going before most people headed back home or other places to continue their journey.

Afterthoughts

I think it’s a great idea to involve young people to open source communities and get some work done. This contest is not only a contest. It isn’t only about contestants potentially being applied to a great university or an internship at Google later. It also isn’t only about the organizations getting work done by other people.

It’s a great way to get like-minded people communicate with each other, starting from a young age.

It can help young people who might not be socially the most extrovert to find something they like doing.

It can potentially make more open source careers possible through the passion that these young people have.

Whether Ubuntu will apply to be a mentor organization next time depends much on the volunteers. If there are enough mentors who are willing to do the work – figuring out what tasks are suitable for the contestants, registering them and helping the contestants work their way through them – then I don’t see why Ubuntu would not be signing up again.

Personally, I can highly recommend applying again. It’s been a great ride. Thank you everybody, you know who you are!

Other blogs

François Revol (Haiku mentor) – a series of blog articles about the trip with even more details