Enabling hands-on, experiential opportunities for students at multiple learning levels has been a mainstay of the Red Hat Research mission. Mentoring students in open source development, teaching classes, creating curriculum, and contributing to education infrastructure are all ways of growing a robust open source research community. That in turn benefits students, the companies that hire them, universities, and—ultimately—the end users of open source technologies. Sarah Coghlan was the first university program manager for Red Hat in the United States, and Matej Hrušovský is the university program manager for Red Hat in Brno, Czech Republic, home to Red Hat’s largest engineering office. RHRQ asked them to discuss the wide range of activities in this vital area.
When Red Hat Research launched, university programs were largely local and designed around community needs. That is evident in the variety of programs we have supported, whether by supplying funding or contributing expertise. While not an exhaustive list, this sampling of past and present educational programs shows the depth and diversity of initiatives Red Hat Research has participated in:
GROW: Greater Boston Research Opportunities for Young Women: Young women entering their senior year of high school participate in collaborative research at Boston University.
SoarCS and RAMP (Research, Academic, and Mentoring Pathways): UMass Lowell students, particularly first-generation college students and students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields, get mentoring in research and develop programming and other skills the summer before their freshman year.
Collaboratory student research projects: Boston University undergraduate students contribute to computer systems research at the Red Hat Collaboratory in projects related to Unikernel Linux, practical programming of FPGAs, and security detection.
Open source through the research lens
As RHRQ starts its fifth year it’s impossible to resist the temptation to look back at all we’ve done so far. The result is this collection of perspectives. Together they paint an inspiring picture of the innovative work that can be accomplished when engineering know-how and bold research questions come together in open source environments.
- Focus on open hardware, Ulrich Drepper and Ahmed Sanaullah
- Focus on clouds and research IT, Heidi Picher Dempsey and Gagan Kumar
- Focus on testing and operations, Daniel Bristot de Oliveira and Bandan Das
- Focus on security, privacy, and cryptography, Lily Sturmann
- Focus on AI and machine learning, Sanjay Arora and Marek Grác
Open source and programming
Red Hat Beyond: Red Hat engineers launched this project to promote open source and DevOps concepts among students in Israel. Beyond courses have been taught at Reichman University and other regional universities, and for the Israeli Navy.
Red Hat open source education (ROSE): Arab and Israeli students learn about Linux, open source, and Python programming together in this long-running program.
Red Hat Summer Camp: This IT-focused camp teaches Brno high school students about open source values and technical skills including coding, UX design, and Git.
Social Innovation hackathons: Partnerships with groups including UNICEF, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Boston’s Children’s Hospital inspired community coding efforts to use the power of open source to address global issues.
Diversity in STEM careers
Czechitas thesis award: This non-profit organization, hosted by Masaryk University and co-founded by professor Barbora Buhnová, encourages the participation of young women in tech. The thesis award provides mentorship for young women passionate about working in IT.
FIT summer school for girls: Red Hat Czech is a partner in this program that encourages high school girls interested in IT, based at the Brno University of Technology.
Leadership academy: This program, launched by UMass Amherst in collaboration with several other Massachusetts colleges and universities, develops professional skills with students of color and women interested in careers in technology and engineering.
TechTogether hackathons: Hackathons in major US cities encourage people of marginalized genders to become part of the hackathon community, contributing to an increase in the gender diversity of hackathons from 18% in 2017 to 46% in 2022.
Many Red Hatters also teach for-credit classes at universities where Red Hat Research has a presence, and others teach Linux Kernel Development through the Linux Foundation. Red Hat has sponsored undergraduate internships, awarded scholarships, and funded research opportunities for undergrads at BU, Northeastern, the University of Massachusetts, and several other US universities for many years.
Resources for faculty and instructors
With the formation of a global research team, our educational activities started to align.The COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant impact: many of our university and high school activities at the time were hands-on and in person, and not all of them could be run remotely. On the other hand, the pandemic highlighted the need to augment open source learning resources and target a broader remote audience.
Red Hatters and faculty frequently collaborate on developing course materials related to open source and core research areas of interest. In 2022, we began aggregating the resources that Red Hatters and our university partners have used to teach courses on topics including cloud computing, Linux administration, and technical writing. A growing online database representing universities from North America and Europe makes these materials easy to find and available to anyone for reuse.
In the next few years, we’ll likely hear more about the Open Education project (OPE) on the Red Hat OpenShift Data Science (RHODS) environment at BU. OPE aims to empower educators in any discipline to create, publish, and collaboratively develop high-quality educational materials that students can access with just a web browser. See Danni Shi’s article “Open source education: from philosophy to reality” in this issue to learn more about where this initiative is headed.
Training and workforce development
Especially in the United States, the traditional path to careers in app-dev, data science, IT, and site reliability engineering (SRE) has been through college. Many of these jobs can be done by skilled people who do not have a college degree, and the typical college education does not always prepare candidates well for real-world work. Additionally, a college education is not easily attainable for many talented candidates because of social barriers in our education system.
In January 2023, Red Hat Research launched an apprenticeship program with the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC). The program provides an entry point into IT for talented individuals who either would not take the traditional college path or are switching from other, non-technical subjects. This program sources student interns from Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), a public, not-for-profit institution in an underserved community in western Massachusetts.
Students who have excelled in the Computer Systems Engineering Technology program have the opportunity to complete an internship with TechSquare, a high-performance computing (HPC) Linux System Administration consulting group. The Red Hat Research team engages with students who successfully complete the apprenticeship. While at Red Hat, students work to gain experience as SREs, directly working on Red Hat projects.
Red Hat/MGHPCC apprentices will participate in the integration and operations of open source software and systems in distributed hybrid clouds, learn how to transition research and prototype systems to production environments, and learn how to support real production environments in research IT and enterprise datacenters. Students in the program will be able to support multiple collaborative projects with academic and industry partners now underway in research environments worldwide.