Imagination Unlimited – Summer camp’13


I got this title over a discussion with my wife. That discussion was about our small daughter who started telling stories out of her imagination.  In all stories she will be one character and others will be the new animals and plants she came across. Occasionally her father becomes a hero fighting with the deadly animals and saves her. But recently she herself started the fights and just needs few ladoos before the fight.  I thought this title would be suitable for the blog which talks about the recently concluded free software summer camp.  Without the unlimited imaginations of several people it couldn’t have become such a huge success.  Success is not just a self praise but something real. While going through the blogs of many students, we could feel the warmth of the camp being conveyed in every word they write.

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Even though the climate experts may not agree with the name of the camp, Summer camp 2013, as per the VTU semester plan we have named camp as Summer camp. Free software movement, Karnataka has conducted its second camp of the year in JVIT, near Bidadi in Bangalore. It was a 9 days residential camp for inculcating the values of free software and orient the participants towards IT industry using free software technologies.  153 students from about 25 engineering colleges across Karnataka has participated in the camp. About 35 volunteers from different GLUGs were also working day and night to make it successful. Five of our executive members were present all days in the camp taking  leave from their regular work. Camp  was inaugurated by FSMI general secretary Kiran Chandra. Inauguration ceremony was chaired by former MLA and the college chairman Mr. Lingappa.

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It was a fun filled 9 days and every moment was enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to Karthik Bhat and team who have made it lively through out. Students were grouped under different volunteers and there were 16 of them. This defensibility allowed them to come out of their college boundaries and mingle with students from various other colleges. Lot of team activities were there in every evening which has built a group consciousness to succeed as a team rather than just individuals. This is one of the qualities IT industry is also keen about. Even when the agile card is being played very well in the teams, industry leaders very well know the need of grooming the team-first mentality in the members.

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Almost all the organizers felt that student volunteers are maturing themselves to take bigger responsibilities.  So we got some more time to interact with the students and concentrate on organization oriented discussions. We had dedicated time to meet every college teams and tried to get the feedback.  Every student was convinced about the need of GLUG in their college to take forward more free software activities in their campus.  We do see the potential to grow to more districts in Karnataka while acknowledging the fact that there is a need for more bandwidth. I am sure more future free software evangelists will be born in such camps and summer camp proves such a thought. Last winter camp in January 2013 was attended by 130 students and 20 volunteers. This time the number has increased to 150 participants and 35 volunteers. Many summer camp volunteers were winter-camp participants.  And executive committee was least loaded on the execution front and we could concentrate on the organization building aspects. It includes one on one interactions, screening of documentaries, discussion over documentary, skits, college meetings, etc.

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What makes FSMK different from other free software or open source groups? We are a movement. A movement succeeds only when people from all quarters of life are participating in it and taking it forward. We clearly understand that free software movement is not just for the hackers and this need to be taken to the common man. Engineering colleges and students of this country should connect with the need of our society. To sensitize the participants in this direction we have screened “Nero’s Guests” documentary which talks about the farmer suicides in Vidharbha. There was a group discussion after that and many students were really convinced about the need to intervene in their capacity. There was a bookstall showcasing many scientific and socially relevant titles. Many students were attracted towards the bookstall after the session by Raghavendra about surveillance and freedom in the internet space. We sold around Rs. 2500/- worth books through the stall operated by the community center.

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Sarath, Vignesh, Raghuram, Shijil, Karthik Bhat, Hari, Jeeva, Rakesh P, Anupama and Indra deserves a special mention for the success of this camp. We have listed down the names of all 35 volunteers here. Each fo them were crucial to the success of the camp. Good thing was that all were clear about what is their role and what is expected out of each.  Another reason the camp became successful is because of the support we have received from the college management. Vice principal of the college, Dr. Swarnajyothi, has put lot of efforts to make this camp happen and successful.  While  conducting such camps the major hurdle we have faced is on the timing of labs. This time our students were able to use the labs till 10 pm. Volunteers are trained for the next day sessions after that in the same labs. This would not have been possible without the support and flexibility offered by the college.

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I was proud to present the community center kids before the 200 plus audience including the participants, volunteers, organizers and the college management.  I was a bit emotional (yes.. of-course because of happiness) after I saw a standing ovation from the audience for the community center team.  Community centers are unique experiments by FSMK. Students from 8th standard to degree courses, house wives, small laborers, self employed people, etc are coming there and learning various subjects. Mainly the classes are oriented towards “how to use computer”. All classes are happening on free software. Most of them are now comfortable with using Ubuntu/Debian, Libre office, Shell commands, GIMP, etc. Topics do not stop with computer applications. General science, Mathematics, Social studies, Politics, etc also takes center stage frequently. Mine was an attempt to showcase it and to stress the need for engineering college students to participate in this alternative learning process which enables many.

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This camp will be a turning point in the free software movement history if following points are also achieved.

0. Participants themselves completely switch to free software.

1. Participants from every college work towards building an active FSMK unit in their campus

2. Ensure participation from different branches and semesters in this platform.

3. Conduct at-least two technical and ideological sessions as part of the unit activity in a month

4. Take initiative to take free software to the common public. This could be by setting up a community center or helping a school in your neighborhood  to switch to free software.

5. Take free software to non-engineering colleges as well.

6. Learn about different initiatives of FSMK and work towards achieving the common goals. This could be about localization, academicians chapter, FSMK news letter, etc.summer_4

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There is scope of activism for everyone in Free Software Movement.  Starting from common man till professionals and not only software engineers. We already have successful implementations of free software in schools(IT @ School in Kerala), which saves lot of money on proprietary softwares which in-turn can be utilized to buy more hardware. The cybercafes in our neighborhoods need to liberated from the illegal ( so called pirated) softwares. The wide spread computerization need to be switched to free softwares as early as possible, not just for saving money  but to protect ourselves from so many eagle eyes.

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We would love to see free software and its ideologies in its true spirit is spreading across the state and the entire country.  To bring down digital divide, to remove illiteracy in general and build computer literacy in particular, even in our villages, this movement can do a lot.  And college students of our country should play a major role in it. In addition to that we have to thicken the color codes of free software contribution in the world map.  At the same time the fight against imperialist surveillance and invasions need to be fought tooth and nail.  It is important for us to get equipped ourselves and protect the freedom and dignity of ourselves and our fellow men and women.

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