Student Emilie and her experience in Google Code-in 2019 - Liquid Galaxy project community site

Student Emilie and her experience in Google Code-in 2019

My Experience with Liquid Galaxy - Google Code-in 2019

For seven exciting weeks, I participated in Google Code-in under Liquid Galaxy, a wonderful organization based around Google Earth and their various sister apps. Initially, I was a complete beginner in Virtual Machines and networking, but GCI was an amazing experience to learn and improve my skills in many aspects of technology.

I’d come to Google Code-in through a random search for an opportunity to pursue open source, and improve my development skills. Because Liquid Galaxy was listed as using Python and Big Data, I was interested. Little did I know I’d work with so much more. The short bite-size task format of Google Code-in allowed me to work with many different tools, and experiment to find techniques that I liked. To me, Google Code-in was never a competition against others: it was a learning journey, and I personally think I’ve learned so much.

I began with easier Markdown, documentation, design, and testing tasks, and over the next seven weeks began familiarizing myself with the Liquid Galaxy system and virtual machines, which are mini-computers running on your PC. I was completely new to this, so I had a few issues along the way, but managed to figure it out with the guidance of mentors and fellow students.

From there, I built a variety of controllers and scripts to work with the Liquid Galaxy, as well as testing extension apps and even building one of my own. See Favourite Tasks for more! I found the more difficult tasks challenging (as I didn’t have much experience with the technologies used) but good chances to learn a new technology (such as VMs and networking protocols). A tip: if your organization has marked some tasks as advanced / top / important, take the challenge on! Mentors will be more than happy to support you through your learning process, and the multiple ‘aha’ moments will be remembered forever. Google Code-in gave me an opportunity to show off my past skills (albeit limited ones) and investigate and delve into new technologies.

Unfortunately, Google Code-in overlapped with holidays, so I did have to sacrifice some time there. As well, school remained an important priority, and I’m in a pretty intensive program. Overall, I’m still really proud of the effort I managed to put in.

Some of my favourite tasks included:

- Installing Liquid Galaxy 3 times. I was new to virtualization technology, and it took a while to figure out Unix-based systems and how the VMs networked together. In the end, after scraping the documentation, numerous Google searches, and asking questions on the Slack, I managed to get it to work. That ‘aha’ moment where all my VMs finally synced was absolutely magical.

- Building an Ansible installation script. I had no idea how to use Ansible initially. My first submission was a rather half-hearted attempt at a solution, but I managed to develop a full-fledged Ansible installation script for Liquid Galaxy. Thank you to my mentor for guiding me through the process of learning and indicating areas where I could substitute commands! I ended up really liking the task and plan to further investigate Ansible.

- Creating an Arduino controller (or two, or five). This allowed me to further examine the command structure of how the Liquid Galaxy could be controlled, and let me explore the world of electronics and serial communication, as well as networking. Reading the documentation and implementing the networking was an incredibly rewarding task, and I loved the series of tasks I completed with the Arduino.

- Revisiting Unity to make a presentation. I’d taken Unity classes in the past and toyed around with the systems before, but hadn’t touched it in a while. I enjoyed developing the RPG-like text system, and creating a relatively-reusable controller script for the game system. I’d love to see other Unity on LG recreations.

- Creating an installation guide. Thinking from the point of view of a person who wasn’t familiar with VMs (which admittedly was me in the beginning of GCI) allowed me to create better documentation. This task especially let me build better communication skills, and I enjoyed the process of thinking through logical steps and possible issues. - One of my manuals

- Working with Flutter to build an OSC app. This task really shows how GCI promotes learning, as I’d never worked with either of these technologies before. I learned Flutter in a couple days and connected it to my VMs for a simple app solution. I’ve already talked about the ‘aha’ moment, but again: the moment my app connected to my VMs was amazing. I hope to gain more experience with Flutter and OSC in the future as well.

The Liquid Galaxy community was honestly an amazing part of the whole experience. Whenever I had a question, I knew they were there to answer, and if not, they’d give advice on how they tried to fix it, and together, we’d somehow finagle a solution. Everyone was super welcoming and happy to help, which was a godsend when I was trying to figure out where the settings button was… (oops! :) ) Even as a member of an underrepresented group in tech, I felt welcome at all times, despite the stories describing gender inequality in tech. Open source is a great place for anyone to jump in, as the whole point of it is that it’s open to everyone!

Thank you to all the mentors, who’ve worked so hard to help us improve and grow as developers. Thank you for providing guidance through difficult tasks, and fostering a safe, welcoming community in the Slack!

I’d like to congratulate my fellow winner, Dylan, and the finalists and fellow contributors that’ll continue to work on the project. Google Code-in 2019 was an unforgettable experience, especially with the amazing community. I’ll never forget DNSDT and our Baby Yoda memes! GCI challenged me in many different ways, and it was a great time! I’m proud to be a Liquid Galaxy community member and I look forward to continuing to work with Liquid Galaxy and exploring new technologies in conjunction with their systems!

If you’re completely new to coding and technology, I recommend going for Google Code-in. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to concepts, and your mentors will guide you through any issues you may end up having. For more experienced developers, GCI still presents a challenge in new technologies and collaboration. The point of GCI is to learn, and there’s always something new to build, to research, and to prototype, so I encourage everyone to participate. There’s something for everyone!

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