Google Code-In

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

google picture

Google Code-In

Google Code-In is an opportunity for students aged 13 to 17 to participate in a contest revolving open source software development. According to Google, the contest began in November 2010 and the final contest was held in January 2020. The Google Code-In was formed from The Google Highly Open Participation contest that began in 2007.

Since 2010, 63 open-source mentoring organizations worked to craft tasks that students could work on.  These students hadn’t necessarily worked with software development and open source in the past, but they were taught that anyone can contribute to open source software, not just a coder. From November 2010 to January 2020, 14,798 teenagers from 117 countries and from 6,008 schools finished 76,281 open-source tasks with the 63 source organizations.

Outside of the Google office

There are so many coding, software development, and STEM careers, as well as degrees in school, math and science competitions, competitions, and summer programs, gaining experience participating in the Google Code-In or similar code in is a great way to polish skills and learn new ones.

Why should you attempt Google Code-In? Google Code-In will open the doors of coding and open source to you while giving you real like task solving experience. Even if you don’t win, you’ll learn something incredibly valuable while meeting others. You can ask any questions about programming, testing, code reviews, writing documentation, bugs, or design that you want!

Continue reading if you’d like to learn more about the various Google Code-In tasks, etiquette, and more. If you are unsure whether or not you should attempt the Google Code-In, we can help at AdmissionSight with our Academic Guidance program or Extracurricular Planning, or just contact us.

Words to Know (According to Google)

Open Source: Denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.

Coding: Write program instructions for a computer program.

Software: The programs and other operating information used by a computer.

UTC: Coordinated Universal Time, which is the basis for local time zones all around the globe.

How it Works

Each year, Google chooses 25 or more open source organizations to join in on the Google Code-In. Google works with a lot of open-source organizations, you can find their list of affiliations here.

Next, the organizations chosen to make a list of various tasks for students to complete, they are categorized as:

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

Next, students choose the organization of their choice or a task of their choice and get three days to finish it. (Students can work with multiple organizations during the competition.) If you want to stay working on tasks that most help you when it comes to growing as a student, to stay on track with your academics or career path, reach out to us at AdmissionSight, because it may be beneficial for you to pick a task that is on the path, we can help.

Students carry out the documentation to research, plus training, design, outreach, quality assurance, and coding when it comes to open source. From there, they work with their mentor to review and submit, and once submitted mentors from the organization judge the work and accept it. Then, you can pick a new challenge! Doing more than one challenge can prove you go above and beyond, and also gives you a better chance at winning!

codes from one of the students

Prizes can include certificates and t-shirts. Limited edition hoodies go to six finalists per each organization, and two finalists from each organization go on a trip to Google Headquarters in California.

What You’ll Need

In order to participate, you have to be between the ages of 13 and 17 with parental permission, and enrolled in a pre-university educational program, aka middle school or high school. Read rules here.

2019 High school students pose with their academic advisor at Harvard

You don’t need to be a programmer to participate, but normally the programs used are in Python, C++, C, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and others. Not all tasks have to do with coding, but it’s a good skill to know or be starting to learn.


Open Source Organizations use Internet Relay Chats, such as Slack, mailing lists or Microsoft Teams, etc, it’s important to keep in mind how you are communicating with others, this is a good guide in case you’ve never communicated this way before, even if you aren’t participating in Google Code-In, Slack or Teams are used in the workforce often, so it’s important to be aware of etiquette.

  • Using capital letters is like shouting, do not do it!
  • Be considerate in your messages, say what you are typing out loud to ensure it doesn’t sound pushy, rude or anything negative
  • Don’t put your personal information like a phone number, address, social security, etc in a mailing list or chat
  • When responding to an existing post or email, use text from the original message to respond to ensure clarity and so that someone who maybe didn’t read the first email can understand, this is called responding inline
  • Keep subject lines short and choose them carefully, so they aren’t too vague but not too lengthy
  • Do not use profanity
  • Try to stay away from using graphics, attachments or images

Anything you put on the internet is forever, so make sure you are kind and careful. You can learn a lot from using Internet Relay Chats, and those skills can be applied to resumes, your Common Application, or explained in interviews. Using Slack is also a good opportunity to learn how a leader communicates. If your mentor or the org administrator uses Slack or Teams etc, how they communicate because communication is an important leadership skill.

Examples of Tasks

The tasks are categorized above, here are some examples from 2018 of each task category:

  1. Coding
    • Through the organization Haiku, add a feature to Maps application to work to fix an enhancement issue (check out full directions here)
    • A fun example through the organization Catrobat is to create a Tic Tac Toe game in Pocket Code, basically win Tic Tac Toe! Read more here
    • All of the tasks have some elements of coding, but these tasks also bring together categories like quality assurance and Tic Tac Toe is plain fun!
    • Don’t forget when participating in the Code In to have fun, it’s important to focus and do well, but also to add your own personal touch to the task you’re completing, which relates back to your Personal Statement, where you have to show why you stand out, how can you accomplish this task successfully but also differently and creatively? Similar to your college application and personal statement
  2. Documentation/Training
    • Through Sugar Labs, create a lesson plan that uses Music Blocks, explore your own Music Blocks here
    • Using Moving Blocks, improve a world generation tutorial using a biome approach
    • These tasks are allowing you as a student to create your own item, or solution using documentation
  3.  Outreach/Research
    • Through CCExtractor Development and using AI, find a way to get AI to summarize caption lines, this would be done by using an algorithm
    • Through the Australian Open Source Software Innovation and education organization, put your writing skills to the test to write a blog about your findings on voting algorithms
    • These tasks prove you have what it takes to use research and outreach skills to come up with a solution, whether that is a product or action
    • Also, if you have an interest in research, put your skills to more tests against this list of Research Competitions
  4. Quality Assurance
    • Through Fabrik, make an A/B test for a feature on the product that needs to change
    • This task proves you can code to adjust quality assurance
  5. Design
    • If you have an artist side, this task may before you, as may some of the Humanities competitions we provide a list to at AdmissionSight
    • The first task through CCExtractor is to create a new logo for Nephos, a catchy logo or artwork can be used
    • This is a great task to spark creativity.


The Timeline could differ from year to year, this was the 2019 timeline and it began in October with some marketing, the release of the open-source organizations. In December, the contest begins, and in mid-January is the deadline to get new tasks and a few days later finish them. Mentors then complete evaluations, a list of Winners and Finalists are created and a few weeks later the winners are announced!

Responsibility of Students, Mentors and Organization Administrators

There are high standards for expectations when it comes to the Code-In, there are expectations from the organizations, mentors, and students to each other. This Google Code-In is about solving a problem and teamwork, so it’s important to keep up with your responsibilities, no matter the role you play.

Responsibilities of Students:

  • Submit quality work
  • Communicate whatever work you’ve completed with your mentor and your next choice of action
  • Ask for help if needed!
  • Check-in every day of your work
  • Double-check your work
  • Also check in with the broader community, peers, other mentors
  • Listen to your mentor and take in their feedback
  • If you have issues as a student let the org administrator know, whether the issue is with your mentor or someone else

Responsibilities of a Mentor:

  • Work with org administrators to communicate the availability
  • Let students and org admin know if your mentor role will be reduced due to personal reasons
  • Let the org administrator know if there are issues with your student such as bad communication, or violations
  • Valuate student participation
  • Make sure you’re helping your student be part of the community
  • Work and communicate effectively, and through communication like Slack or Teams
  • Challenge your student, ask them questions to get them to ask more questions
  • Keep track of progress
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Establish a timeline and expectations with your student

Responsibilities of the Org Administrator:

  • Its the org administrators job to be a liaison with Google
  • To ensure deadlines are met and provide a list of project and task ideas
  • Oversee all mentors and students are maintaining their responsibilities

Read more about the various responsibilities of each team member here.

What You Can Be or Accomplish with a Knowledge of Coding

After you learn how to code, there is a lot you can do, coding opens doors to various careers, skills, and talents. There are also other coding programs such as the US Computing Olympiad or the coding program during the Duke Summer Program, Google Code-In can give you an upper-hand when it comes time to applying, as well as for other math and science competitions.

Digital Media Design Program

  1. You can build your own website
    • You can build your own website to have a creative way to show a portfolio, to hold your resume, to even put your headshots
    • You can also work for other building websites, a good career path or a moneymaker on the side
  2. Get a job in coding
  3. Start a Business
    • You can start your own business selling software
    • Making or selling mobile apps
    • Website building


It’s worth trying the Google Code-In because you have nothing to lose! If you aren’t completely interested in coding, there are other opportunities to participate in Google programs like the Google Science Fair, and various other science and math-related programs or competitions that don’t necessarily focus on programming such as the California State Summer School for Math and Science, which is STEM-focused.  There is a program or competition out there for everyone, if you are having a hard time finding a fit, contact us at AdmissionSight, we can help guide you in the right direction.

Stay up to date with the Google Code-In, when the next one will occur or if the program will become entirely new, here.


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