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One Laptop Per Child

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) was proposed by MIT in 2005 to fight the gap in access to technology in education for underprivileged children.

Prof. Stephen Jacobs, director of RIT’s Lab for Technological Literacy (LTL) at the time, was interested in the program and acquired three OLPC XO 1.0 laptops in 2007 via the first “Give One, Get One” program. In January 2009, Rochester Institute of Technology had an honors class that developed educational games for the OLPC program. That was the earliest documented birth of Open-Source @ RIT. Open Source advocates, such as Karlie Robinson and David Nalley, were brought in by Professor Jacobs to support the class. Karlie Robinson introduced the students to the Sugar Labs’ Math 4 initiative which was dedicated to supporting 4th grade curricula. David Nalley, who was part of the Fedora community, donated 25 XO laptops to help students contribute to the Sugar initiative. This ended the first iteration of the class, but the seminar class went on for several more iterations, with more incredible Open Source advocates joining the picture. Sadly, the original history was based on an old page, now it no longer exists.


Estimated to have started in 2010, Stephen Jacobs hired Remy DeCausemaker (RIT alumni) to run the Open Source program. Remy was initially from the Fedora community so the club had a great foundation. Initially, it was set up as a semi-student club, but more of an informal student group called the Free and Open Source Software Box (FOSSBox). It served as a 24-hour access space that was housed in the Innovation Center (informally known as the Fish Bowl). FOSSBox used an IRC channel on Freenode to communicate when not in the designated space. As the first group to introduce hackathons to the student population, the FOSSBox’s impact on RIT’s culture continues as several hackathons are run every semester. FOSSBox also ran several of their hackathons when they were active, such as Election Night Hackathon and Random Hacks of Kindness, as well as several others. The original Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) seminar class was accredited and students in that class commonly got introduced and involved in the student group as well. Remy and FOSSBox started the course-to-coop life cycle where students in Open Source would receive co-op offers from companies that were funding and interested in Open Source at RIT. This cycle repeated as those students graduated and got full-time offers and referred those who were in the student club for co-op positions. FOSSBox may have been an informal student group at first, but it grew to the point where a full-time staff member was managing FOSSBox and undergraduate students had part-time paid roles doing the secretarial work for FOSSBox, both of which were funded by a yearly payment by Red Hat. The FOSSBox community operated until approximately 2015, collaborating with organizations in the local area such as Hacks/Hackers, BarCampROC, and the student club CodeRIT. The organization is also commonly referred to as FOSS@RIT because of the Github organization created for all things Open Source at Rochester Institute of Technology. The Github Organization did come after (Jan 24, 2012) establishment of FOSSBox, however students at the time used the two names for the organization interchangably. During the period of renaming from FOSSBox to FOSS@MAGIC, the Open Source hub on campus was known under all three names.


Founded in 2012, LibreCorps’ first purpose was as a co-op program after developing educational games under the ‘One Laptop Per Child’ program. LibreCorps serves as an experiential learning program where students are deployed to work on real-world Open Source software and data projects, supporting faculty partners with direct software development as well as community management, documentation, design, and other forms of non-code contribution. RIT LibreCorps has been partnered intermittently with the UNICEF Office of Innovation since 2014. As a successful pilot, LibreCorps reached up to 24 supported faculty-driven software projects!

FOSS Minor

Beginning of the Fall 2014 Semester, Rochester Institute of Technology started to offer the first minor in Free and Open Source Software and Free Culture. The minor was brought about by additional courses offered by the School of Interactive Games and Media (IGM).


When MAGIC was conceptualized in the Simone Center for Student Innovation, it was established to prioritize game development. However, many of the same drivers and organizers of FOSS@RIT were deeply tied into MAGIC, which was how the Open Source was reborn on the RIT campus. MAGIC was managed and led by Andrew Phelps in 2015. FOSS@MAGIC was headquartered in the Innovation Center, albeit without a dedicated physical space like the FOSSBox originally had. FOSS Hours were introduced, which helped increase the involvement of students and other interested parties. However, shortly after, Remy DeCausemaker left the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2015 to go work for Red Hat, which made the RIT Open Source community lose its growing momentum. FOSS@MAGIC still had funding from Red Hat and students were still getting involved, events were being run, and FOSS@MAGIC was relocated inside MAGIC Spell Studios, which was newly constructed in 2018. During this time, Prof. Stephen Jacobs continued staffing the LibreCorps program supported by the UNICEF Office of Innovation. Leading students worked with the UNICEF Venture Fund to provide community consulting and support to various early-stage start-up continents with teams based around the world. Through LibreCorps, FOSS@MAGIC co-op students provided guidance, mentoring, and coaching to help these diverse, global start-up companies figure out to work the Open Source Way and build a community around their products.

FOSS@MAGIC existed in this manner for quite a while, until 2020 when the global COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the on-campus experience.


In 2020, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided financial support for an open work organization led by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Stephen Jacobs: Open@RIT. This program was situated just under Rochester Institute of Technology Vice President for Research, Ryne Raffaelle and has been the home of Open Source at RIT since 2020. Open@RIT participates in research projects, receives funding from grants, provides open source community consultation to faculty and staff, and hosts town halls for the Open Source community on campus. Although the name has changed to Open@RIT, the organization is still involved with faculty members of MAGIC.

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