An Evolving Hack Yard: The NITR Devs Workspace

An Evolving Hack Yard: The NITR Devs Workspace

Anujit Jena Shuvendu Swain | Sep 28, 2020

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The 'Eat, sleep, code, repeat' culture has been an integral part of the life of a large number of students not only at NIT Rourkela but also at several premier engineering institutions, uniting engineers across all branches and years.

This has given rise to a large number of coding clubs in the institute. Though there might be minor differences in the objectives and aims, yet learning and developing remain the common motto in all of them. A common motto demands a healthy discussion and a healthy discussion requires a centralized community, open to everyone in the institute.

This thought culminated in reality in the form of the NITR Devs, a Slack workspace, on April 18th, 2020, from a joint idea by Developer Student Club (DSC), NIT Rourkela and OpenCode, an opensource community-cum-club registered under Technical Society of Student Activity Centre, NIT Rourkela. As of now, the Channel consists of around 600 tech enthusiasts and is continuing to grow.

This platform caters to almost all aspects, ranging from computer programming to web development to machine learning frameworks to participating in hackathons, project contributions and whatnot!

Team MM reached out to two of the founders, Vedant Raghuwanshi and Harish Ramesh Babu, to gather valuable information regarding the mottos, objectives and inspirations behind the creation of the Workspace. Read on to know more regarding the community and its working process.

A PLATTER OF IDEAS AND OPPORTUNITIES

The basic idea involves bringing together all tech enthusiasts of the campus so that all can learn and grow. The objective of this platform is to create a nurturing environment, where everyone shares their knowledge and collaborates with everyone. The brainchild of Abel Mathew, this a single platform which brings all coding clubs and campus representatives of GFG, Coding Ninjas, CodeChef and almost all other NITR representatives under one roof for the best of technology!

Both Harish and Vedant believe that though there are clubs, they are very self-centred and only care about the projects and things relevant to their club as a whole. Still, since the inception of NITR Devs, things have changed for the better.

For example, as of now, people from second years belonging to different clubs are forming teams and collaborating. Coming to the initiatives, the clubs along with DSC have started a weekly series of tutorials and sessions on competitive programming along with contests, which were not possible by a single club since a single club neither has all the resources nor the network to start these kinds of initiatives.

Harish Ramesh Babu, GitHub Campus Expert and DSC Lead remarked the following that speaks of the necessity of such a community:

NITR Devs is neither a club nor an organization; it is a community of like-minded people enthusiastic about technologies and building networks. All the members in NITR Devs abide by the code of conduct so that everyone feels inclusive. All the events or activities are organized by the ADMINS, which consists of all the Technical Club Heads and Representatives. All the events organized by the admins would be open for all, rather than being restricted to only a particular club or society. This would be a perfect opportunity for someone who is just starting since they wouldn't be in any of the clubs.

PUTTING THOUGHTS TO PICTURE

Vedant Raghuwanshi, President of OpenCode, gave an informative insight into the plans of the community:

The first big thing being conducted under NITR Devs is the Hacktoberfest which shall start from October 1st and continue till 31st. Encouraging and creating awareness about open source development among the students shall remain the primary focus. As already planned, almost ten projects of the institute itself in which students would be contributing, and after that, they will be getting goodies and t-shirts from Digital Ocean, which is a US-based company. In the process, they'll get familiar enough to participate in open source or competitions like Google Summer of Code and Outreachy of Mozilla.

He added,

We also started the workshop series in September, which is known as Preptember, in which we have taken six to seven sessions, and four sessions are on the way. Their performance in the contest judges all the students. Regarding open source development, OpenCode has taken charge to create open-source projects and to monitor the pull request and software development. 

THE CHANNELS: AN OVERVIEW

There are about 25 channels currently on the workspace;

NITR codes & comp-coding. : NITR Codes channel holds a contest every weekend. These two channels are focused only and only on data structures and algorithms, the foundation and basics for computer science or any software engineering aspirant.

App development: DSC, NIT Rourkela primarily handles this channel. Here, they hold discussions on app development and technologies related to the same.

Web development: It's a combined channel and consists of mentors of all years who address doubts and queries and discuss new technologies and projects surrounding web development.

Apart from these, there are also various channels in which people generally post their doubts, bugs/errors and other concerns. Helpdesk channels have also been included for any query or issue related to any other problem the members face. Overall, lively discussions are held regularly, and a wholesome mentoring and learning experience is achieved.

How does the Workspace cater to the needs of beginners?

Vedant Raghuwanshi said the following regarding the beginners joining the community:

So, one function of this Workspace was to serve as a platform to help beginners. I can name people who did not know to code before the DSA lab, which happened in the first year, but as of now have participated in hackathons and have built excellent projects. In my case itself, there are almost 10 to 15 people whose projects I have looked at. I have solved their issues and developed their code further. In the NITR Devs channel, several people are being mentored by the seniors along the way. However, If you don't come out of your comfort zone or if you don't come out of your shell and introduce yourself or be active in the Channel, then no one can do anything. 

So far, what has been the response from the students concerning participation in contests, workshops and events?

Harish Ramesh Babu replied:

We have got some positive feedback from the students that they find our events useful and helpful. We are continually working on establishing a better connection with student's needs which would help us plan accordingly. This is an iterative process of conducting events and getting their feedback.

Vedant Raghuwanshi added:

I should say that the people who want to learn or want to develop themselves as such are continually showing great enthusiasm and a lot of participation. They are regularly part of the discussion and eager to be part of more projects and eager to learn more to develop open-source or to excel at competitive programming or explore the potential of basic software development.

What would your advice be to students who are finding it hard to manage the herculean academic schedule and coding at the same time?

Vedant Raghuwanshi replied:

I am a third-year student from Electrical Engineering. Hence I think I am eligible to answer this. It can be tough to manage to code for the people from branches other than Computer Science. However, if you want to get an excellent non-core job or learn technologies, then you have to actually develop a timetable in your head.

It would help if you devoted a few hours to coding daily while holding to the core curriculum. I managed to do that, and now at the start of the third year, I got an internship in software engineering in Samsung R&D, Bangalore. I say the trick is to prioritize your choices. So, one of the essential things which every student should realize at this point is that it is never too late to start. I can give you countless examples of people from seniors who started coding very late even after their third year. Still, actually, at the end of the fourth year, they got selected in non-core sectors and that too jobs with a good profile.

Apart from that, another fact is that it's never too early nor too late. If you start from today itself, practice diligently, divide their time judiciously, in just a few months they will be able to do some excellent work. See the internship session happens after the second year; hence there is ample time to prepare correctly.

AMELIORATING THE CULTURE

The main motto for NITR Devs is "Don't code alone, Code for the Community". The main motive of this venture is to connect all the tech enthusiasts in NITR. That feeling of sharing and collaboration is slowly and steadily creeping to the picture.

Vedant Raghuwanshi replied on a concluding note:

Some students are doing incredible work in the areas of software development and related stuff. But the problem is that they are very few. Through the NITR Devs Channel, those people can now assist each other in learning stuff and furnish them with resources and in the process, slowly and gradually build the community.

Harish Ramesh Babu added:

All members get to talking and solving queries among themselves. Just a place where you get to meet, discuss and resolve. It consists of tech teams, individuals who are genuinely interested in the things and wish to help others facing problems. We have created a place so that people don't get lost when seeking mentorship and resources for any aspect of the software. Each club, campus ambassador, and individual indeed has some specific set of roles and aims. They follow their own set of plans. However, collectively knowledge sharing and healthy communication always remain the primary aim.

Thus, the venture which was started less than a year back has reached the levels of an active community with an influx of knowledge and experience from diverse sources. The unification, if entirely and correctly achieved, shall positively transform the scene related to coding in the institute.

Anyone of the institute wishing to collaborate, contribute or just learn can be a part of the growing community to acquire knowledge and remain updated regarding the latest events and competitions. Here’s the link to the NITR Devs workspace: http://bit.ly/NITRDevs

Team MM lauds the founders, developers, mentors, Campus ambassadors, club heads and everyone who's contributing to developing the community. We sincerely hope that it continues to grow and improve.

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