App Inventor at FOSDEM 2024

Feb 13, 2024 evan's Blog

I recently had the pleasure of attending >FOSDEM 2024 in Brussels, Belgium last week. FOSDEM is a gathering of people contributing to free and open source software (FOSS) hosted at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). While primaily focused on Europe it draws people from around the world. This year, Peter Mathijssen, an App Inventor Power User, and Bart Mathijssen, a contributor to App Inventor on GitHub, helped organize two tracks: FOSS Education Software Devroom and FOSDEM Junior.

Devrooms at FOSDEM are opportunities for developers working on FOSS software to come together to share insights and learnings. This year, App Inventor kicked off the second day of the conference. I was joined by Vishwas Adiga and Diego Barreiro Perez, contributors to App Inventor as well as current GSOC mentors and former GSOC contributors. We gave an overview of App Inventor and how people can get started contributing to the project. There was also a discussion about how generative AI with our new Aptly project may change the landscape of computational action by further lowering the barrier to entry to app creation.

Watch the video recording from FOSDEM.

This year’s FOSDEM introduced a new track called FOSDEM Junior, which provided workshops for people aged 7 to 17 to learn about open source software projects. MIT App Inventor was one of the projects highlighted in this track. Together with support from Viswas, Diego, Bart, and others, I gave an hour-long workshop to 25 children (and their parents) that involved building HelloPurr and PaintPot with App Inventor. It is always fun to hear the cacophony of meows and inevitable laughter that comes once participants have their code working. Afterward, one parent wrote to me about her daughter, who when “asked about which [workshop] she liked best, she mentioned yours: it was well paced, showed her how to do stuff she hadn’t known before…” This sentiment is common and uplifting because it shows how people can really expand their horizons with App Inventor.

Evan assists a participant at the MIT App Inventor workshop at FOSDEM.

If you would like to contribute to App Inventor, there are many ways to do so. Native language speakers can consider joining our Weblate community to help with translating App Inventor. Software developers with experience in Java, JavaScript, Swift, and Scheme can take a look at our help wanted issues to get their feet wet making technical contributions to the platform. We regularly participate in GSOC and new contributors to open source are encouraged to get involved via that program. You can also ask questions about contributing to our open source repository here.

A celebratory dinner for a job well done with App Inventor contributors and power users.

Evan W. Patton, Ph.D.
Lead Software Engineer, MIT App Inventor