Applying to GSoC with the RTEMS Project

This is the beginning of Week 1 in the coding portion of the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) for the Real-Time Executive for Multiprocessor Systems (RTEMS) Project. As luck would have it, it also corresponds with finals week for the term. As I finish finals and ease into the project, I will begin with a basic post on my experience so far in applying to GSoC and to RTEMS specifically.

I am just over 2/3 of the way through a BS in Computer Science. Two years ago, I had never even attempted basic programming or heard the term RTOS, much less attempted to contribute to a major, complex open-source project like RTEMS. The point is that this is an attainable goal for any student who puts in the effort.

Students have about a month from the time Google announces mentor organizations to when applications are due. This provides the time to get to know the organizations, learn about the work they are doing, and figure out where you might fit in. Importantly, organizations themselves make the selections — not GSoC — this means that students should carefully read the organization-specific instructions to understand what they are looking for. The RTEMS project provides a clear path for interested GSoC applicants including a proposal template and a prerequisite task of building RTEMS, modifying a basic application, and submitting the patch to the developers mailing list. Detailed instructions are available and, more importantly, a highly engaged group of mentors is there to assist when needed.

The organization website also contains GSoC project information for every alum stretching back more than a decade. This is very helpful to understand the kind of work that GSoC alumni have done and what a successful proposal looks like. Pay attention and you will notice that most successful applicants are not all folks that have been contributing to open-source RTOS projects since they were 12! They are just other students like you who are motivated to contribute and gain some real-world experience.

My advice to interested students is to start as early as possible. Take the time to introduce yourself and explain why you are interested. These will be your future mentors and colleagues. Look carefully at the open projects and determine where your current skill set will allow you to contribute. Put in effort to research and write a proposal and (respectfully) solicit feedback early and often. Then be open to learn and put in the work!

The Community Bonding Period

This period is built-in to the GSoC and covers the several weeks between acceptance into the program and the start of the first formal coding period. Students officially introduce themselves to the wider RTEMS user community, ensure their development environments are set up, and observe and participate in community interactions relevant to their project.

I felt warmly welcomed and have met some wonderful new colleagues from all over the world. The sun never sets on the RTEMS community! Students participate in weekly group meetings with mentors to discuss progress to date and the way forward. I have done one-on-one video meetings with my primary and secondary mentors, which has been extremely helpful to focus my initial efforts.

My main takeaway is that I am becoming part of an exciting, active community doing outstanding work. The support is there, they want me to succeed, and it’s up to me to run with this opportunity.

Written on June 9, 2021

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Matthew Joyce

Matthew Joyce

Studies Computer Science at Oregon State University. Student Developer with the RTEMS project through Google Summer of Code, 2021. Lives in Berlin, Germany.