Student-Run Computing and Technology (SRCT, pronounced "circuit") is a student organization at George Mason University which enhances student computing at our school by developing and maintaining systems that provide specific services for Mason's community.
We were founded in 2011 to be a place where students could work together, share their knowledge, and build really neat projects for the benefit of everyone at Mason, as well as run a host of events to help get students involved.
Our primary purpose is improving life at Mason by developing and hosting software services. We give students the opportunity to build their computing experience outside of the classroom, and for the benefit of the Mason community. All of the projects we develop are released under open source licenses so anyone can examine our code to learn, to make changes or improvements, or to run on their own.
As one example, in 2011 two of our members wanted to make it easier to see when dining locations on campus were still open. Beginning together, but gradually bringing in contributions from half a dozen others, SRCT built whatsopen.gmu.edu, displaying live the opening and closing times for all of Mason's dining options. Our collaborators then took the skills they learned creating that site with them to interviews and to the workforce. Today, it's our most popular project, visited by hundreds of students daily, and used at our meetings to teach prospective new members.
There are many aspects required to create a functional, useful service, and more still to keep it running. Beyond coding or other technical contributions we need designers, organizers, artists, writers, and testers-- students who may never have taken a CS or IT course. If you're interested in helping, there are plenty of places to devote your talent.
Not only do we work to continually improve our existing projects--let us know if you come across a bug or think of a useful new feature-- but we're always eager to hear ideas for new projects. Working together, our members can help bring your idea to fruition and deployment.
We work to offer opportunities for Mason students to strengthen their skills and further their leadership experience through a broad variety of events throughout the year.
Each month or so, we hold large-scale events. These have ranged from all-day workshops, with small group breakout sessions, speakers, and panels to week-long guided development competitions.
We organize contingents to represent Mason at hackathons around the country, intercollegiate programming competitions for students of all skill levels. We also travel to conferences like LibrePlanet or PyCon to deepen our knowledge, for inspiration, and to build out connections beyond the Mason community.
Additionally, and on a smaller scale, we hold weekly meetings with talks or workshops led by other students, or occasionally, special guest speakers. These cover a broad number of industry-standard topics, and range from introductory steps to deep dives. A recurring subset of these workshops aim at preparing students for the kinds of questions they might encounter in technical interviews.
These meetings also afford us the opportunity to work on projects in person together, and hammer out solutions to challenges or organize timelines for continued development. Project managers also occasionally call separate, project-specific workshops to help move their project through the next feature or to the next release.
We believe in returning the skills we've learned together back to our community. Our student membership works to provide other students with hands-on learning opportunities, regardless of their experience level. Then, should they continue with our organization, they can take up the leadership role of teaching newcomers what they've learned themselves.
Our commitment to volunteerism extends beyond development on our open source projects. We've led elementary school students through their first steps learning how to program. We began the drive for a campus maker space, so everyone could have a place to learn and collaborate on technical projects. We host software development services for Mason students. We continue to grow a collection of freely licensed campus photography.
Underlying everything is friendship and spirit of fun. Our members work in study groups, get the occasional dinner together, or escape from technology for a bit and head outdoors. We hold celebratory events at the end of semesters, and stay in touch over the summer, or after graduating.
SRCT was founded in part by three LGBTQ students, and we've long been proud of the diversity of our membership. In working to benefit the whole Mason community, we need input from as many of our diverse campus' perspectives as possible. Women and students from minority groups are welcomed and encouraged to participate and join. And if you're in CS 101, come say hello!
We communicate and organize primarily on Slack. Slack is a communication app for teams. If you've used IRC, you'll feel right at home. Head to srct.slack.com, click 'Create an Account', and sign up with your Mason email address.
When you get signed in, you'll will find 'channels' for discussion about all of our projects, events, and a number of other community topics. Join as many channels as you wish if you're interested their respective subjects. You may then want to install Slack's mobile or desktop apps.
Then, sign up for our primary mailing list to get emails around once a month with updates on upcoming events, opportunities, or project releases.
There are a couple of opportunities to come and say hello. During the semester, we hold weekly meetings, where we run workshops, work on projects, plan events, and handle administrative and organizational matters. Remember to bring your laptop!
Development meetups are called to push forward work on projects or help students continue to build the skills they need to contribute. They're a little more sporadic, but you're always welcome to join in.
You can also come to any of our major events: all-day workshops, travel to conferences, hosting speakers, and more. Every event goes on our calendar, on our Facebook page, and is announced on our mailing list. You can also join us representing Mason at hackathons.
Whenever you come, make sure to pick up a free SRCT sticker. They look lovely on laptops.
Version control lets developers keep an organized history of their changes. This means you can fearlessly try out your ideas and allows multiple people to easily collaborate simultaneously. We use Git as our version control system. All of our projects are on the git server we run for Mason, git.gmu.edu, and are mirrored to Github, a similar commercial service. Get a good handle on using git with this quick tutorial.
Bring your ideas and perspectives to our promotional material, photography, and software interfaces! Start off by taking a look at Mason's official branding guidelines. They form the foundation for our design work, with their recommended color palettes, font faces, and overall perspective.
For contributing to software, see the kinds of elements and paradigms you can incorporate with CSS frameworks like Bootstrap or MDL. Learn about creating straightforward user experiences by reading Don't Make Me Think, free through Mason's online collections. Then, walk through our projects, considering these sorts of questions: Are basic user functions obvious? Do pages load cleanly and quickly on both desktops and phones? Can you easily understand when using a screenreader?
Without reliable server infrastructure to host all of our services, the code we write wouldn't be much help to Mason's community. Take a look at learning to use the Unix command line. In Hollywood, it's the sign of an elite hacker, but doesn't have to be mystifying. Sure, no mouse is a bit different, but soon enough, you'll see both how using a terminal gives you far more power, and why for a lot of cases, it's easier than clicking, dragging, and dropping.
The free version of this tutorial is a great place to begin. If you're already using Linux or macOS, this tutorial is another great resource (ignore the intimidating title) to try things out on your own machine. Once you have a little practice under your belt, try following our documentation to deploy one of our projects. What's Open is a good one to start with.