HARTFORD, Conn. – The Humanitarian FOSS Project (HFOSS), a collaborative three-college program that creates free open source software (FOSS) for the common good, received a major vote of confidence recently with the awarding of an $800,000, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) under its Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education program (CPATH).

 Trinity’s share of the grant amounts to $467,636, with the balance divided between Wesleyan University and Connecticut College, the two schools that have partnered with Trinity in the development of the free software that benefits the community.

 The funds represent an extension of a half-million dollar grant that the three colleges had already received, bringing the total amount provided by the NSF to roughly $1.3 million. Although it is a collaborative project, HFOSS is based at Trinity and is headed by Ralph Morelli, a professor of computer science. The project director is Trishan R. de Lanerolle.

 Over the past two years, more than 120 students from seven colleges and universities have been involved in HFOSS-related activities, ranging from courses to independent study projects to competitive summer internship programs.

 “It’s been great working with computer science students and colleagues at Wesleyan and Connecticut College over the past two years,” said Morelli. “This new grant will give us an opportunity to get other schools involved in the HFOSS project.”

 The second round of funding will allow the HFOSS program to continue and expand its activities through August 2011.

 “Over the next two years,” said de Lanerolle, “one of our challenges will be to identify a successful sustainability model to continue the project beyond the grant period. We are always looking for new ideas.”

 Among the goals that they will pursue are:

 ·      Expanding the HFOSS Chapter model to include new colleges and universities, initially through its summer internship program.

·      Developing an HFOSS Certificate program to recognize and certify the educational achievements of students who participate in a significant way.

·      Establishing a sustainable organizational and financial model that will allow the project to function at a national level in subsequent years.

 “We are hopeful that the nascent HFOSS movement will spread and be able to make a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals who could benefit from the HFOSS software projects,” said de Lanerolle.

FOSS is software that is developed by collaborative communities and distributed under licenses that allow it to be freely adapted, modified, and redistributed.

A goal of the HFOSS model is to help revitalize undergraduate computing education by engaging students in building FOSS that benefits the community and the world around them. The Trinity/Wesleyan/Connecticut College project is part of the growing HFOSS community, which was inspired by the Sahana FOSS Disaster Management System, an information technology system that was created to aid in the recovery effort following the December 2004 tsunami in Asia. During the annual 10-week summer HFOSS Institute, students from around the region have built a volunteer management module for the Sahana project, and contributed to a number of other humanitarian projects, including:

·      The GNOME Accessibility Project, which helps disabled users use a keyboard and mouse and helps the hearing impaired to perceive audio events.

·      InSTEDD Evolve, which uses machine learning to sift through news articles from around the world and identify outbreaks of disease as they happen.

·      OpenMRS, which is an open source medical records system deployed in several developing countries.

·      Collabbit, a virtual emergency operations center to assist relief agencies to coordinate their efforts during a disaster.

·      POSIT, a mobile application for the Google phone designed to assist first responders in a disaster scenario.

For more information about the program, please visit: http://hfoss.org.

 

 

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