Google Code-in 2014 Frequently Asked Questions

For questions about how to use the Google Code-in website, please see the GCI Melange User’s Guide.

Contest Overview

  1. What is Google Code-in?
  2. What are the goals of this contest?
  3. How does it work?
  4. When does the contest begin?
  5. When can I register for the contest?
  6. What are the eligibility requirements for the contest?
  7. If I’m homeschooled can I participate in Google Code-in?
  8. What are the prizes?
  9. How were the participating open source projects chosen?
  10. How do students choose which organizations to work with?

Contest Details

  1. How do I decide what task to work on?
  2. How do I claim and complete a particular task?
  3. How are individual contest entries judged?
  4. How are the Grand Prize Winners chosen?
  5. What does comprehensive body of work mean for picking Grand Prize Winners?
  6. I have already been working with one of the open source projects; am I allowed to work on their tasks for the contest?

Tasks

  1. What is a task?
  2. What kinds of tasks will I have to choose from?
  3. What is a beginner task?
  4. Is there a limit on how many beginner tasks I can complete?
  5. What do the values in the "Status" column of the task list mean?
  6. Can I work on more than one task at a time?
  7. Is there a limit to the number of tasks I can complete?
  8. Can I work on a task as part of a team?
  9. Can I get help from the open source project's community and still take credit for completing a task?
  10. I started working on a task and I've realized that I don't know enough to get the work done. What should I do?


Timeline

  1. What is the contest timeline?


Forms

  1. What forms will be required from student contestants?
  2. Where do I find the required forms?
  3. How will I receive my prizes?


Other Questions

  1. Is there anything else I should plan to do as a participant in the contest?
  2. What can I do to get ready for the contest before it starts on December 1st?
  3. How do I get help when I have a question?
  4. I am 17 years old and 11 months, can I compete in the contest?
  5. I am enrolled in a university and am only 17, can I participate?
  6. Where can I find the GCI logo and slide decks for the program?
  7. I have a question that is not answered in this FAQ. Where can I find more information?


Contest Overview
1. What is Google Code-in?
Google Code-in (GCI) is a contest for pre-university students (e.g., high school and secondary school students) with the goal of encouraging young people to participate in open source. We work with open source organizations, each of whom will provide a list of tasks to be completed by student contestants. Tasks can be anything an organization needs help with, from bug fixes, to writing code, to user experience research, to writing documentation. The contest takes place entirely online.

2. What are the goals of this contest?
Google Code-in is intended to help students who may have wanted to get involved in open source but didn't know where to start. By working through the tasks created by participating open source organizations, contestants will be given the opportunity to engage with the open source community and get involved and earn real life experience working with a software project. The participating open source organizations gain the benefit of additional contributions to their project, often in important areas that may get overlooked for whatever reason. It is Google's not so secret hope that the student contestants of today will be long-term contributors to these and other open source projects in the future.

3. How does it work?

1. Participating open source organizations create a list of tasks on www.google-melange.com.

2. Students claim ownership of a particular task and submit their work for assessment according to the instructions for each task.

3. Representatives from the open source organization evaluate the work submitted.

a. If the work is accepted, the task is closed.
b. If the work needs polishing, the task remains open and the organization representative may give the student additional time and guidance on improving their work.
c. If the work does not meet expectations, the task can be reopened for another student participant to claim and work on.

4. When does the contest begin?
The contest begins at 9:00 AM Pacific Time (17:00 UTC) on December 1, 2014. Make sure that you take the time to read through the Contest Rules and familiarize yourself with the introductory information provided by a particular open source project before starting work on a task. Please have your parent or legal guardian read the Contest Rules as well as they will need to provide their consent before you can participate in the contest. Review the full Contest timeline, too.

5. When can I register for the contest?
You can register on the Google Code-in contest site once the contest begins on December 1, 2014 at 9:00 AM PT (17:00 UTC). At that time you will complete these three steps:

  1. fill in your student profile
  2. have your parent/legal guardian complete the Parental Consent form by electronically signing the form or by signing and uploading all 10 pages of the form (with the Contest Rules) to your student profile
  3. upload your proof of enrollment in a pre-university program

Once you have completed the three steps above you can claim your first task.

6. What are the eligibility requirements for the contest?
You must be at least thirteen (13) years of age and no older than seventeen (17) years of age at the time the contest begins. You must also be enrolled in a pre-university program, e.g. high school, secondary school, or educational institution, and submit proof of enrollment in such pre-university program. You will need to obtain your parent or legal guardian's consent to your participation. Your parent/legal guardian can either 1) electronically sign the Parental Consent form, or 2) download a copy of the Parental Consent form, sign it, and then you will need to upload all 10 pages of the form (with the Contest Rules) to your student profile. For full details, see the Contest Rules. Remember, by participating in the contest you are agreeing to abide by these rules, so please take a few minutes now to carefully read through them.

7. If I’m homeschooled can I participate in Google Code-in?
Yes. When you create your profile you will need to submit your signed Google Code-in Parental Consent form and proof of enrollment in a home school program (certificate, transcript, etc.). If you have questions regarding this requirement you can contact the program administrators at ospoteam@gmail.com.

8. What are the prizes?
At the conclusion of the contest, contestants are eligible to receive a certificate for completing at least one (1) task (maximum of one certificate per contestant). For completing three (3) tasks students are eligible to receive a t-shirt (maximum one t-shirt per contestant).

The five (5) Finalists from each organization are also eligible to receive a hooded sweatshirt in addition to the certificate and t-shirt.

Of these Finalists, two (2) will be named the Grand Prize Winners from each organization and they are eligible to receive the prizes above as well as a Grand Prize Trip to Google’s Mountain View, California, USA Headquarters in June 2015. For full details, see the Contest Rules.

9. How were the participating open source projects chosen?
We choose open source projects from a pool of applications submitted directly to Google. The open source organizations have all participated in Google Summer of Code and some have also participated in previous Google Code-in programs. We choose organizations that are accustomed to mentoring students online and across time zones. The participating projects will be announced on November 12, 2014.

10. How do students choose which organizations to work with?
Students can work with one organization or with multiple organizations during the contest. Students should review the home page of each organization to find an organization that interests them. If students wish to try for the Grand Prize they will want to focus their work with one project, though they may wish to do one or two tasks with multiple organizations to find the community that interests them the most.


Contest Details

1. How do I decide what task to work on?
Take a look at the participating open source projects on the Google Code-in contest page and decide which one(s) are doing work that is interesting to you. Click on the name of the open source project and you'll be taken to its individual contest page, which will give you information about the project and resources for learning more. After the contest begins on December 1, 2014 you will be able to browse available tasks in the “Open Tasks” section of the project's contest page.

Each task will be labeled with descriptors like "documentation" or "code” or “python,” which will further help you narrow down your choices of tasks. Take a look at the requirements for an individual task and, if you're up to that particular challenge, claim the task and start working on it.

2. How do I claim and complete a particular task?

  1. Sign in to your Google Account. If you do not have a Google Account, you can create one without charge from Google. If you already have a Gmail address, you can just sign in to your Gmail account.
  2. Next you will create your student profile. You can click the red “Register As Student” button from the homepage or click the “Login” button on the left-hand navigation bar.
  3. After creating your profile, you will need to obtain your parent or legal guardian's consent to your participation. Your parent/legal guardian can either 1) electronically sign the Parental Consent form, or 2) download a copy of the Parental Consent form, sign it, and then you will need to upload all 10 pages of the form (with the Contest Rules) to your student profile. Note that your forms will not be reviewed by Contest Administrators until you submit your first task.
  4. To get started, click on the red “Search for tasks” button from the contest home page.
  5. You can then view all available tasks. There are columns showing:
    a)  Title of the task
    b)  Mentoring Organization
    c)  Category of task (Code, Quality Assurance, etc)
    d)  Tags to help show which coding languages may be needed - Python, C++, etc. or other helpful descriptors about the task
    e) if the task is Open or Reopened (someone else claimed it but decided to move on to a different task).
  6. Select the task you are interested in. A new page will open with more information about the task, the time period allowed to complete the task, and the Mentors assigned to that task.
  7. To claim the task, click the “Claim this task!” button in the upper right corner of the task page.
    a)  This locks down both the task and you to the task, meaning:
             i)  No other student can request to claim the same task.
    ii)  You cannot request to claim another task either. If you are already working on a task, you cannot request to claim any other task. Note: It can take a Mentor up to 36 hours to assign the task to you.
    b)  You will need to wait for a Mentor to assign the task to you. The Organization Administrator or any Mentor of the organization can do one of the following with an optional comment:
      i)  Approve the request. The task will then say “Task Assigned” and state your username in the comment thread. You will also receive an email notification that the task has been assigned to you.   
     ii)  Reject the request if the request is invalid, irrelevant or a spam. The task moves to Reopened state.
  8. Once the Mentor assigns the task to you, the deadline is set as specified by the time to complete field and the clock starts to tick. You begin work on the task. “This is your current task” will be displayed in the upper right corner of your screen.
  9. When you are ready to submit your work (before the task deadline) you can login to your student profile and go to “My Dashboard” on the left navigation bar. The window will display your current task and you can then upload your work as an attachment and click the red “Submit File” button or you can include a URL to your work and click the red “Submit URL.” Then you need to click the “Mark task as complete” button. You can optionally add a comment to the completed task if you wish.   
  10. Once you have marked a task as complete the mentors will receive a notification to review your work. When the work is submitted for review by the mentor, “Ready for Review” will appear in the comment thread. One of the Mentors of the task will review your submitted work within 36 hours and take one of the following actions:
i) If the mentor is satisfied with your submitted work they will accept the work and "Task Closed" will appear in the comment thread. You can then claim another task if you’d like.
ii) If the mentor is not satisfied with your work but thinks that it requires a rework and you can fix it, they will post a comment describing what needs to be fixed or added. At this juncture the mentor has the option to extend the deadline for you. The cycle goes back to the point where you have to submit your work again.
iii) If the Mentor is completely unsatisfied with your work they can reopen the task. The task changes the state to Reopened. The new cycle with another student requesting to claim the task begins.
You can withdraw from the task at any point in this entire workflow after you request to claim the task. In such a case the task returns to Reopened state and you can claim another task.

3. How are individual contest entries judged?
Each entry is judged by mentors from the participating open source projects. Entries must meet the requirements for completion specified in each task write up. Google's contest administrators will make the final judgment on all entries.

4. How are the Grand Prize Winners chosen?
Two (2) Grand Prize Winners will be chosen by each open source organization based on their pool of entries. Judges of the Open Source organization will evaluate the work of the ten (10) highest scoring Participants for their Open Source organization and will determine five (5) Finalists. From those five (5) Finalists they will choose the two (2) Participants with the most comprehensive body of work and name those two (2) Participants the Grand Prize Winners for their Open Source organization. For full details, see the Contest Rules.

5. What does comprehensive body of work mean for picking Grand Prize Winners?
When deciding on the Grand Prize Winners, the Judges from each Open Source organization will review all of the work the ten (10) students with the highest number of tasks completed during the seven (7) week contest with their particular Open Source organization.

Because some tasks are more involved than others just by the nature of the type of task (example: heavy coding versus a bug fix), it is entirely possible that someone who completed fifteen (15) tasks could be chosen as a Grand Prize winner over someone who completed 35 tasks. If they are both among the top ten (10) point earners for that organization, they are eligible to be a Grand Prize Winner. The comprehensive or overall work product, including quality of work, is more important than simple quantity of tasks completed.

Additionally, Judges appreciate when a student, in the process of completing the task, goes a step further and finds fixes or additional features to the current task that weren’t explicitly stated and make their work even more useful for the organization. Involvement in the community is always a plus whether that includes being active on their IRC channel or on a group discussion list, etc. Judges like to see students who are involved in the project beyond just completing more tasks than their peers.

6. I have already been working with one of the open source projects; am I allowed to work on their tasks for the contest?
As long as you or a family member do not hold an official position in the open source project, such as core developer, documentation working group member or sit on the board of the project, you are welcome to participate in the contest. If you are not sure, please contact Google's contest administrators at ospoteam@gmail.com for help in deciding whether your participation violates the contest rules.

Tasks

1. What is a task?
A chunk of work in one of the task categories below, suitable for a 13-17 year old student.

2. What kinds of tasks will I have to choose from?
Tasks are divided into the following categories:

  1. Code: Tasks related to writing or refactoring code
  2. Documentation/Training: Tasks related to creating/editing documents and helping others learn more
  3. Outreach/research: Tasks related to community management, outreach/marketing, or studying problems and recommending solutions
  4. Quality Assurance: Tasks related to testing and ensuring code is of high quality.
  5. User Interface: Tasks related to user experience research or user interface design and interaction

Each task will be labeled with at least one of these categories to help you choose which tasks to complete. Tasks will be available when the contest opens on December 1, 2014 at 9:00 AM PT (17:00 UTC).

3. What is a beginner task?
This year the open source organizations have created some beginner tasks that are for students just getting involved in the contest who aren’t quite sure where to start. The tasks will likely take 3-5 hours to complete but they are less technical in nature. Some organizations have created an introduction type of task for students to work on that helps students learn how the organization’s code base works and to get to know more about the project. These tasks are a great way to get started in the contest.

4. Is there a limit on how many beginner tasks I can complete?
Yes. Each student can only complete a total of 2 of these beginner tasks during the contest period. Students can complete 2 tasks with one organization or a student can complete 1 task with two different organizations.

5. What do the values in the "Status" column of the task list mean?

  1. Open: This task has not yet been claimed.
  2. ClaimRequested: Someone has requested to claim this task.
  3. Claimed: This task has been claimed and someone is working on it.
  4. NeedsWork: This work on this task needs a bit more brushing up. This state is followed by a mentor review.
  5. NeedsReview: Student has submitted work for this task and it should be reviewed by a mentor.
  6. Unapproved: When the task has been suggested by the mentor but not approved by the organization administrator.
  7. Unpublished: When the task has been suggested by the mentor and approved by the organization administrator, but not published.
  8. Reopened: If the task has been rejected by the mentor or organization administrator because it is invalid, irrelevant, or spam.
  9. ActionNeeded: When the work for the task has not been submitted and the deadline to complete the task has been extended for 24 hours.
  10. AwaitingRegistration: If a student has completed a task but has not registered.
  11. Invalid: If the task is marked as invalid, irrelevant, or spam.
  12. Closed: Work on this task has been successfully completed.

6. Can I work on more than one task at a time?
No, you can only claim one task to work on at a time.

7. Is there a limit to the number of tasks I can complete?
You can complete as many tasks as you would like during the course of the contest, but you can only claim one task at a time and you can only complete 2 beginner tasks.

8. Can I work on a task as part of a team?
While we encourage you to get help where you need it, only one person will receive credit per task. Participation as a team is not possible.

9. Can I get help from the open source project's community and still take credit for completing a task?
Absolutely! We want you to get to know each project's community members and to understand their processes and requirements. It's totally fine to ask for help if you're stuck, but remember that you should try to solve the problem yourself before getting assistance. To put it a different way, you've taken responsibility for accomplishing something, so it's perfectly acceptable to get it done in a collaborative fashion - that's how open source works! Just make sure the people you collaborate with are not other contestants.

10. I started working on a task and I've realized that I don't know enough to get the work done. What should I do?
You can withdraw from a task at any time by selecting the “Unclaim task” button from the task page. Don't get discouraged - find something else you're interested in working on that is a better fit for your skills and experience and try again.

Timeline
1. What is the contest timeline?

Monday, October 6, 2014 Contest announced
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 Mentoring Organizations Announced
Monday, December 1, 2014 (9:00 AM PT / 17:00 UTC) - Contest opens for entries by student participants
Monday, January 19, 2015 (9:00 AM PT / 17:00 UTC) - All student work must be submitted. Contest ends.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015 (9:00 AM PT) - Mentoring Organizations complete all evaluations of student’s work
Monday, February 2, 2015 Winners announced on Google Open Source Blog
June 2015 Grand Prize Trip

Forms
1. What forms are required from student contestants?

You must submit two (2) forms to be able to participate in the Google Code-in contest. These forms must be uploaded before you claim your first task.

i) You must obtain your parent or legal guardian's consent to your participation. Your parent/legal guardian can either 1) electronically sign the Parental Consent form, or 2) download a copy of the Parental Consent form, sign it, and then you will need to upload all 10 pages of the form (with the Contest Rules) to your student profile.

ii) You must submit proof of enrollment in a pre-university program (any 1 of these will be accepted: photocopy of student ID, letter from school administrator on school letterhead, or copy of current school transcript). You can find examples of these here.

Grand Prize Winners will be required to submit additional paperwork. Please see the Contest Rules for more information.

2. Where do I find the required forms?

On the Student Form Uploads page of your Student Profile there is a link to the Google Code-in Contest Parental Consent Form in English that your parent/legal guardian can electronically sign. If you would like to download one of the translated versions of the Parental Consent Form you can print it for your parent to read and fill out. You will then need to upload all 10 pages of the Parental Consent form (with the Contest Rules) to the Student Form Uploads page of your Student Profile.

There are examples of the acceptable proofs of enrollment in the Downloads section of the GCI homepage.

Your forms will be reviewed by Google Contest Administrators after you have submitted your first task. On your Dashboard you will be able to see when the forms have been approved as the button will change to “Approved.” If there is a problem with your forms an email will be sent directly to you from Contest Administrators telling you about the changes needed.

3. How will I receive my prizes?
The certificates and t-shirts (where appropriate) will start being shipped to the address the student provides in their profile after February 20, 2015.

Other Questions
1. Is there anything else I should plan to do as a participant in the contest?
You may wish to subscribe to the contest announcement mailing list for updates about the contest. We recommend subscribing to this list as we will post important deadline reminders on there for students.

If you are looking for help, you can always subscribe to the contest discussion list. If you do subscribe to the discussion list, keep in mind that many people may be sending email to it, you may want to subscribe only for a daily digest email or choose to only browse the group online.

If you need help with Google Groups, check out the documentation.

There is a helpful User Guide for the program site available if you have questions on how to get started on the site.

2. What can I do to get ready for the contest before it starts on December 1st?

  1. Read through the Contest Rules.
  2. Read the Parental Consent form found on the Contest Site.
  3. Decide which form of proof of enrollment in a pre-university program you wish to upload (photocopy of school identification card, letter from school administrator or copy of current school transcript) and scan it so that you can upload it once the contest begins.
  4. Review the “Getting Started” section on the website. We have asked the Mentoring Organizations what tips they would give students before students start competing in Google Code-in and we have gone into more detail on these items in the Getting Started tab.
  5. Finally, you can read through the descriptions of the participating organizations to see the type of work they do so that you can know which ones you might be interested in working with during the contest.

3. How do I get help when I have a question?
Each open source project participating in the contest will include information about where to go to ask questions, either on the individual task page or on one of their contest pages. If you still aren't sure where to ask for help, send a message to the contest discussion mailing list. Some projects use an email list, others use IRC or chat, etc.

4. I am 17 years old and 11 months, can I compete in the contest?

Yes, you are considered 17 from the day of your 17th birthday through the day before your 18th birthday.

5. I am enrolled in a university and am only 17, can I participate?

You are not eligible to participate if you have already graduated grade 12 (high school) and are in between high school and university. You are also not eligible to participate if you are in a university, even if you are only 17.
You are not eligible to participate if you are enrolled in a pre-university program but are 18 years old or older.
Once you turn 18 and are enrolled in university you can apply to participate in our university program, Google Summer of Code.

6. Where can I find the Google Code-in logo and slide decks about the program?
We have the Google Code-in logo available in a few formats along with a slide deck describing the contest available on the Google Code-in website.

7. I have a question that is not answered in this FAQ. Where can I find more information?
First of all, make sure you have read the Contest Rules. Each open source project's contest page will have more information about where to ask questions, so also check there for additional information. If you still do not have an answer to your question, please send email to the contest discussion mailing list and one of the contest administrators will be happy to point you in the right direction. There are additional resources available on our Google Code-in website including Example tasks from previous years, flyers, tips on using IRC, samples of the different proofs of enrollment and logos.