CodeMatch Programme Aims to Attract Computer Science Students to the IETF

In an effort to boost its inclusivity, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is considering a programme aimed at encouraging university students to engage in working groups.

By: Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Date: March 1, 2014

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The goal of the effort—dubbed CodeMatch—is to market the IETF to budding computer scientists as a community that can help deepen their skills. University students would be encouraged to help develop new Internet protocols, draft Request for Comments (RFCs), and participate in interoperability testing with vendors—all activities that they can highlight on their resumes. In return, the IETF would gain access to a pipeline of fresh participants.

“This is an opportunity to expose university students to the IETF at an early stage and show them that the IETF is something they can use to get ahead in the workplace,” said Kathleen Moriarty, cochair of the IETF’s Diversity Design Team, which proposed CodeMatch. “The students would have the opportunity to dive into and understand really deep levels of Internet protocols. Letting them know that this experience could be an advantage to them is really important.”

Moriarity, global lead security architect at EMC, said CodeMatch would provide an online repository in which IETF working groups could post code they need written. Students would participate in bake-off style competitions to write the code, which would be widely available as open source.

“CodeMatch is an online matching service where IETF working groups could post needs for code, and where computer science students and researchers could find opportunities to write open source coding projects to burnish their resumes,” Moriarty explained. “It gives us an opportunity to make connections with the open source community… Creating relationships between the IETF and the open source community is probably the strongest reason to go ahead with this.”

Although the idea for CodeMatch originated as a way to attract women computer science majors to the IETF community, it would be open to male university students, too.

“We need to improve our regional diversity, too, with additional exposure and connections to the open source community,” Moriarty said. “Hopefully we would attract developers and students in other countries. I talked to a computer science professor from Chile, and she was interested in assigning projects to her students via CodeMatch.”

Moriarty proposed CodeMatch after she spoke about the IETF at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing. Run by the Anita Borg Institute, the conference was held in Minneapolis in October 2013. The Internet Society is a sponsor of the three-day event and provides scholarships for international attendees.

“We are delighted that [Moriarity] was part of the Internet Society’s 2013 contingent to the Grace Hopper Celebration meeting. CodeMatch is an ideal bridge for increasing the awareness of the value of IETF and open standards to a new community of emerging professionals while also bringing different and important voices to the IETF and the standards development process,” said Toral Cowieson, senior director of Internet leadership at the Internet Society.