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A Tip of the Hat


Professor of Computer Science Grant Braught honored for use of open-source in academia

by Tony Moore

Red Hat is a $15 billion tech company that creates open-source enterprise software to aid companies in such arenas as virtualization, middleware, cloud, mobile and storage.

It’s hard science all the way—STEM until it hurts. (STEM is science, technology, engineering and mathematics, for the uninitiated.) So when the company recently honored 21 professors from across the country for championing open-source education, you might not expect the list to be littered with educators from liberal-arts colleges.

And it wasn’t.

In fact, only two were from colleges with a liberal-arts backbone, and one of them was Professor of Computer Science Grant Braught.

“Red Hat is thrilled to recognize the professors who are teaching a new generation about the potential available in open source,” said Tom Callaway, university outreach lead at Red Hat. “By creating pathways for their students to work in open-source projects, these instructors provide real-world experiences that help students build a technical portfolio.”

Braught was recognized for his continuing efforts in “incorporating open-source philosophies, methods and tools into his academic work.” Helping Braught win the recognition were initiatives such as involving students in free and open source software (FOSS) communities and coordinating faculty members from six institutions to disseminate ways to incorporate significant FOSS project experiences into the computer science curriculum.

“My hope is that this recognition from Red Hat will inspire our students to go out and talk confidently about the good work they have been doing and the experiences they have been having with their FOSS communities,” Braught says, noting that the efforts of Associate Professor of Computer Science John MacCormick, Michael Skalak (lecturer/technician) and Associate Professor of Computer Science Tim Wahls, who passed away last month, also were integral in earning the honor.

Braught’s students have employed their new skills toward a variety of meaningful purposes, many of which have involved HFOSS—FOSS with a humanitarian focus—working with such organizations as OpenMRS, a community that produces, maintains and supports a free medical records system for underserved populations; and Sugar Labs, a community that builds free learning software for children.

“It’s important to me because I believe [these projects] can provide students with a rich capstone experience that will prepare them well for their future careers, whatever they might be,” Braught says. “Participating in FOSS or HFOSS communities provides students with practical hands-on, real-world experiences that are difficult to provide in more traditional capstone experiences.”

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Published April 7, 2017