Going to Bitcamp 2016

Over the weekend of April 9th – 10th, the Fedora Project Ambassadors of North America attended the Bitcamp 2016 hackathon at the University of Maryland. But what is Bitcamp? The organizers describe it as the following.

Bitcamp is a place for exploration. You will have 36 hours to delve into your curiosities, learn something new, and make something awesome. With world-class mentors and hundreds of fellow campers, you’re in for an amazing time. If you’re ready for an adventure, see you by the fire!

The Fedora Project attended as an event sponsor this year. At the event, we held a table in the hacker arena. The Ambassadors offered mentorship and help to Bitcamp 2016 programmers, gave away some free Fedora swag, and offered an introduction to Linux, open source, and our community. This report recollects some highlights from the event.

Bitcamp 2016: The Fedora Ambassadors of Bitcamp 2016
The Fedora Ambassadors at Bitcamp 2016. Left to right: Chaoyi Zha (cydrobolt), Justin W. Flory (jflory7), Mike DePaulo (mikedep333), Corey Sheldon (linuxmodder)

Getting to Bitcamp 2016

Bitcamp 2016: Chaoyi Zha (cydrobolt) helping hackers with code
Fedora Ambassador Chaoyi Zha (cydrobolt) helps two other students working on their projects.

I left Rochester, New York around 4:00pm after my classes for the day had finished. Bitcamp check-in started at 7:00pm on Friday, April 8th. It was about a six hour drive for me to get there, and I got to Maryland right around 9:30pm.

Once I arrived, walking in was a crazy experience. Tables upon tables of hackers were lined up bu the hundreds. Most were already working on brainstorming. I meandered my way through the crowds to the Fedora table where Corey Sheldon, Mike DePaulo, and Chaoyi Zha were set up.

Meeting the hackers

Bitcamp 2016: Corey Sheldon (linuxmodder) helps a student install Fedora
Fedora Ambassador Corey Sheldon (linuxmodder) works with a student trying to set up dual-boot on his laptop.

Many other students came up to the table before the hackathon officially began. We interacted with several students and helped establish ourselves as mentors as well. Additionally, we also had a badge that attendees could scan to get added to their FAS account!

Once the event officially began, teams of people began working on their projects. Many people had grand ideas of projects to cram into the one weekend. For a brief time, the Ambassadors had a chance to rest from answering questions and helping people with their own hardware.

The hackers began settling into a groove for the evening.

Spending the night

Bitcamp 2016: Over 1,000 hackers attended at the University of Maryland
Over a thousand hackers were present at Bitcamp 2016.

As the day turned into night, the home stretch of the hackathon was beginning. Those with firm ideas were deeply focused on their projects. Others were taking their plans back to the drawing board to overcome unexpected difficulties. Things began settling down for the night. The same cycle repeated itself for both Friday and Saturday nights.

Around this time, we had waves of interested hackers in Fedora, open source software, and Linux approach the table. This time was great for personalized, one-on-one conversations with visitors. Many excellent connections happened during this time!


Bitcamp 2016: Mike DePaulo (mikedep333) at the Fedora Bitcamp 2016 table
Fedora Ambassador Mike DePaulo (mikedep333) demonstrated his triple-boot MacBook with OS X, Windows, and Fedora at Bitcamp 2016.

During Bitcamp, there were several opportunities and connections made between Fedora Ambassadors and university students.

For most of one night, Corey worked with one student who was aiming to do a full dual-boot installation on his laptop with Windows 10 UEFI. For a mixed variety of issues, he was unable to get Fedora working properly on his system. With the help of Corey, he was able to install and use Fedora on his laptop. He was very excited to finally get it working and was hoping to use it for development work in both classwork and personal projects. He was also a repeat visitor from BrickHack and remembered some of the booth members from the last hackathon.

Chaoyi traveled around the hacker space and worked with students looking to get help on web development projects. Chaoyi was able to give advice and help for students working with HTML, JavaScript / NodeJS, and Python. He traveled around the room for most of both nights teaching and showing students how to work on their projects and promoting the benefits of doing their work open source.

Bitcamp 2016: whatcanidoforfedora.org was a popular tool
The whatcanidoforfedora.org site proved a useful tool for students looking to contribute to open source.

Mike also helped several students at Bitcamp, and like at BrickHack, his triple-booted MacBook with OS X, Windows, and Fedora was a popular item. Students with Macs often came and asked him about his setup and how he got it working. Mike was also able to help answer questions about developing in Fedora and share his experience working with tools available in Fedora for working on his projects for work and for fun.

Many students were looking for help with how to better get experience working on software for their future careers. As a student familiar with open source, I enjoyed talking to these students about how open source was a great resource for them. I explained how open source is a great way to get real world experience without working an “official” job, showed how they could make an impact on the world and start doing things, and why we do open source. It was gratifying the see these students get something out of our discussions and build something awesome in the open by the end of hackathon.

Bitcamp 2016: 3D printed Fedora Badges
We 3-D printed a few Fedora Badges using STL files at another vendor’s table.

Overall, I feel like the Fedora Project’s impact was notable and concentrated at the event. I am extremely thankful and fortunate to have been sponsored to attend Bitcamp as an Ambassador for the Fedora Project.

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