SMU explores the legacy of Aaron Swartz and ‘guerilla open access’

Aaron Swartz
The late Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit and a leader in the open access movement, is the subject of a panel discussion, “Jailbreaking Information,” hosted by SMU’s Central University Libraries. Photo credit: Sage Ross.

Computer programmer and political activist Aaron Swartz posted his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto on the nonprofit Internet Archive in 2008. On Jan. 11, 2013, at age 26, the Reddit co-founder took his own life, apparently despondent over his imminent federal prosecution and the threat of up to 50 years in prison.

Almost two years to the day before his suicide, Swartz had been arrested and charged with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for hacking MIT’s computer network and downloading nearly 5 million articles from the JSTOR digital library.

Yet he was no ordinary accused thief. A Fellow in Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and a longtime friend of its director, Lawrence Lessig, Swartz was also a well-known and well-liked figure in the open access movement – a worldwide effort to provide free and unrestricted access, via internet, to scientific and scholarly research.

> Find a timeline of the open access movement at the Earlham College website

SMU’s Central University Libraries has organized a panel discussion of Swartz’s legacy and how his actions could impact millions of students, teachers, researchers and publishers around the globe. “Jailbreaking Information: The Legacy of Hacktivist Aaron Swartz” begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013 in the Science Information Center Mezzanine, Fondren Library Center.

Nathan Huntoon, director of the Innovation Gymnasium in the Lyle School of Engineering, will moderate a panel of SMU experts including:

> Read more from the SMU Central University Libraries news blog

Students tackle global problems in Lyle School competition

Engineering studentsStudents will team up to solve problems ranging from hunger and poverty to climate change and disaster preparedness through a new annual design competition established by SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

The Innovation Competition, funded by Dallas-based Carr LLP, will bring together the thinkers, mentors, facilities and processes necessary for dynamic innovation needed to solve humanity’s problems. It will be hosted by the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education‘s Innovation Gymnasium – which is also home to the Lyle School’s Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Lab in the Lyle School.

“Good ideas come from everywhere,” says Dr. Nathan Huntoon (’06), director of the Innovation Competition. “Each of us has unique experiences and perspectives on the world. These perspectives, more than technical understanding, can often provide the inspiration for ideas that change the world.

“With this competition we are hoping to solicit the good ideas from all our students, and then partner them with people who can help turn that idea into reality.”

Students from all fields of study at SMU are invited to enter the competition. The organizers have future plans to involve students at other colleges and universities.

The deadline for written proposals is April 5, 2010. The teams with the top 5 written proposals will be asked to make oral presentations on April 30, after which two finalists will be announced.

The top two proposals will receive $2,000 each to build a prototype. Engineering students will join each of the two competing teams and will work throughout the summer to build a prototype in the Innovation Gymnasium.

At the end of the summer, a panel of industry and academic judges will evaluate the final prototypes and award the winning team a $1,000 cash prize.

“The Lyle School challenges its students to explore practical innovation, or what we call applied creativity,” says Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “To teach innovation, we must be innovative ourselves, and strive to provide rich, challenging, and interactive experiences that stretch the boundaries of traditional education.”

Read more from SMU News
Learn more at the Innovation Competition homepage
Visit SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering online

Robotics Club makes waves at Tech Fest Feb. 23-24

SMU Robotics Club with Seahorse submersibleThe SMU Robotics Club made the news in July 2007 when its swimming robot was stolen two days before a major competition. But with its fortunes now in high gear, the Club will take the floor with the plucky Seahorse submersible (left) and two new creations during Tech Fest 2008 at the Museum of Nature and Science in Fair Park. Read more.

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