Boy Scouts of America look to open-source community for help

Open Source Initiative kicks off to help scouts get best out of open source

Scouts honor, the 98-year-old Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization is adopting open source software as a path to building better software that supports the almost 3 million scouts and 1.1 million adults who make up the group.

Faced with the need for a streamlined, organized way for its more than 121,000 local Scout troops to find and use software applications for fundraisers, event registration, facilities maintenance and more, the Irving, Texas-based BSA last month launched a Web site to begin its BSA Open Source Initiative.

So far, the group has done little to publicize the site, which has nary a post on it. But that could change as the BSA gets the word out and as the open source community finds out what is being done.

The site is envisioned as a place for scouting leaders to go when they need an application for their troop events or when they want to help other troops with their software projects, said Dan Nelson, director of application services for the BSA information systems division. The idea came up last year when BSA officials met with a group of corporate CIOs who suggested open source software as a valuable resource that could be used by the organization, he said. But until the BSA open source Web site was created, there was no way to organize such an effort. "We're in the perfect place to coordinate it" now, Nelson said.

By using a centralized Web site for its open source projects, Scouting leaders from around the nation can go there to find applications they need for their own projects, such as organizing a popcorn fundraising sale or a special event. By posting such custom applications on the site, and working together to modify, build and improve them, Scouting leaders won't have to start from scratch when they need an application for an event.

"I think there's a lot of potential to get some software into the hands of [Scouting] offices that don't have the resources available" to do these things on their own, Nelson said.

He acknowledged that little has been posted there since the site went live May 8 after six months of work, but he said the group plans to "seed it" with several open source projects that were done previously by others for Scouting activities.

And while there are no plans for anything like a Scout merit badge in open source -- although there has been a merit badge in computers since 1967 -- Nelson said it is possible that if the program is successful, it could evolve into use by IT-savvy scouts themselves.

Gregory Edwards, a Coppell, Texas-based independent software engineer and project manager who was brought in as a contractor to help create the Web site, said that once the site becomes known, the hope is that the large number of technology-oriented adult volunteers with the scouts will make it a creative, active destination for open source development.

"It's a true golden opportunity for the open source community, too," by connecting it with a large group of interested adults and tech-hungry children who can be inspired to use and learn about open source, Edwards said. "The open source community and the Boy Scouts can spread the word on it."

For the open source community, that can be a big win, he said. "Once you get the snowball rolling down the hill, if you get it rolling right, it does grow," Edwards said. "You nurture it. You get the exposure. You get people involved."

Though the project is aimed at Scouting leaders initially, there is nothing that precludes young scouts from volunteering on the site to help write, discuss, test and develop code, he said.

Other nonprofit agencies, from athletic associations to community groups could also gain from the BSA open source effort, because they could use these kinds of applications, too, Edwards said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Todd R. Weiss

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?