Sometimes finding the best solution means starting over. That was Mike Cooper’s dilemma as he tackled his first solo project at the Oregon State University Open Source Lab. An OSU sophomore studying computer science who had just been hired in March 2010 to work as a system administrator for the lab, he was tasked with securing a network connection that could be extended to laptops, allowing lab staff and hosted projects to connect to the lab's private network from anywhere. Cooper decided to scrap the previous method that others had planned to use to link the network servers and instead opted for a virtual private network, a transient link between servers that he felt was a better fit for the lab's needs.
“When I started the project it was kind of hard for me to look at this and say ‘No, we should be doing something else’ and throw away all that work,” Cooper says.“But I decided that the approach they were taking wouldn't work very well for what we wanted.”
Students reap the benefits of professional programming experience at the OSU Open Source Lab
Posted by Kayla Harr on May 10, 2012
As a freshman at Oregon State University in early 2010, Jordan Evans didn't have a lot of computer science experience. Though he had always had an interest in computers, Evans had come to OSU as a mathematics major and, like many first-year students, didn't yet have a clear idea of what he hoped to do with his education.
“I decided I liked math classes better than I liked computer science classes, so I kept taking math classes,” Evans says. “I really had no idea what I would do with it. I knew what I liked but I didn’t know how to apply that to anything.”
Two years later, Evans' career goals have undergone a radical change. Since June 2010, Evans has worked at OSU's Open Source Lab, where he’s built up an impressive resume that includes two years of professional experience as a system administrator, a summer internship with Google and knowledge of exactly what he wants to do in the future.
When Drupal began to outgrow its infrastructure in the summer of 2005, its developers appealed to the open source community for help. OSL offered to host the equipment, and students Eric Searcy and Narayan Newton were put on the case.
"We attacked the problem from two different angles," says Newton, who now works with Tag1 Consulting and is a member of the association that runs Drupal. Searcy, now a systems administrator at InsightsNow in Corvallis, dealt with the scaling of the Web side of Drupal while Newton worked with the database.
They planned several tiers of attack, starting with two load balancers that became proxies that sent requests to Drupal's servers. It was easy then to know which server was up or down and to add new nodes quickly. The load balancers cached Drupal's Web pages, which would deliver older pages without needlessly taxing the Web server.
During his time at OSL, Josh Schonstal has worked on One Laptop Per Child and recently has been spending his time on TriSano, a tool that will help the Centers for Disease Control monitor outbreaks of infectious disease, environmental hazards, and bioterrorism attacks. TriSano is soon to be deployed in hospitals throughout Utah.
TriSano works like a front end for a database of information, Schonstal says. So when a health professional has a report to make, he or she gets a form that is separated into different concerns. The information is later accessible and editable to anyone with clearance to use the system.
OSU senior Josh Schonstal was in second grade when he wrote his first computer program with his father’s help. As an eighth grader he was working with his friends on a basic role-playing game. OSU was the only school he applied to when he was looking for colleges, and that was because of the Open Source Lab.