Winter 2018 — Each month, the sites hosted by Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab deliver nearly 430 terabytes of information to people worldwide, enough to fill 644,140 CD-ROM discs. The Open Source Lab is a section the OSU Center for Applied Systems and Software (CASS) a nonprofit organization that provides software services to real world clients and allows students the unique opportunity to work on a software project’s full life cycle: design, development, testing and hosting.
CASS consists of three units, each providing different services to clients: the Open Source Lab (hosting and software development), the Software Development Group (application design and development), and the Test & IoT Lab (hardware and software testing). CASS strives to develop high-quality, innovative software solutions for clients around the world. Plus, they provide undergraduate students with hands-on industry experience working for nationally and internationally prominent clients.
Bailey Singleton is a student developer who works for CASS in the Open Source Lab. He’s gained plenty of practical experience and applications for his coding knowledge, but he’s been most impressed with the community aspect of the job. “I’ve made a ton of friends,” he says. “We often banter back and forth on issues with a project, and it pushes us to think outside the box. It’s a great feeling when we can put our heads together to tackle a problem efficiently.”
But Singleton’s work relationships aren’t limited to the office; he’s also made valuable connections to other developers worldwide. “That’s what makes open source development so cool — everyone is working for each other. People aren’t keeping code to themselves so they can sell it and make money,” Singleton says. “For example, on a recent project an issue we encountered was solved by someone halfway around the world.”
For students like Singleton, CASS is a way not just to put their software development skills into action, but also to build an impressive resume. “CASS offers an internship here on campus like nothing else you will find,” CASS Director Carrie Hertel says. “Through our projects, students gain a well-rounded perspective and understanding of software as it pertains to the real world. We have actual deadlines with customers who very much care their project is on time, under budget and of excellent quality.”
CASS projects help to supplement and enhance classroom learning as well. Student Systems Engineer Mohamed Eldebri appreciates the way that his projects provide “exposure to concepts and tools that aren’t covered in-depth in classes, but are important in the software industry.” This, and the combination of “mentorship from full time staff who have been contributing to software development for a long time,” he says, make working for CASS a truly rewarding experience.
Industry corporations and organizations are eager to work with CASS because of its wide range of services and the professionalism and efficiency of its students. CASS has worked with high-profile clients like the Apache Software Foundation, the Linux Foundation and the Oregon Department of Transportation. For student employees, this means learning how their work helps improve the world outside OSU. “In working with ODOT, our Software Development Group was able to act as one of the teams working on the Portland travel time signs that you see all over the Portland Metro area,” Hertel says. “Our projects often solve a problem for our customers, and we’re able to make their lives better in the process.”
With an ever-expanding list of past and present partnerships — including Facebook, Google, IBM and more — students get to learn by working alongside some of the largest technology companies in the world. And the varied professional experience they gain often leads to success on the job market. “Getting hands-on experience while in school results in many internship and eventually career opportunities. Several of our students have even created globally influential start-up companies,” Director Lance Albertson says. Hertel agrees, “typically students who work for CASS are snatched up pretty quickly when they graduate.”
Each year, CASS hires students to fill developer, system engineer, systems development engineer and test engineer positions. These positions are 20 hours per week year-round (allowing students to continue taking classes), and they typically last for two or more years.