Google Code-in 2015 Frequently Asked Questions

Contest Overview

What is Google Code-in?

Google Code-in (GCI) is an online contest encouraging 13-17 year old pre-university students to participate in open source software development. Students work on small tasks created by open source organizations, giving students the opportunity to gain real world experience working with a community of international developers while still in their teens.

Google’s hope is that the student contestants will not only learn more about open source but that they will become long term contributors to these organizations and other open source projects.

How does the contest work?

  • Open source organizations chosen by Google create a large list of varied tasks for students to work on (coding and non-coding).
  • Each student contestant searches for a task that interests them and claims ownership of a particular task.
  • The student works on the task and if they have questions they can ask the mentor(s) from that organization that are assigned to the task for guidance.
  • Once the student is ready, they submit their work for review according to the instructions for the task.
  • Mentors from the organization evaluate the work submitted.
  • If the work is accepted, the student earns 1 point and can claim another task to work on if they wish.
  • If the work needs polishing, the task remains open and the mentor may give the student additional time and guidance on improving their work.
  • If the work does not meet expectations, the task can be reopened for another student contestant to claim and work on.

When does the contest begin?

The contest begins at 9:00 AM Pacific Time (17:00 UTC) on December 7, 2015.

Students should take the time to read through the Contest Rules and familiarize themselves with the introductory information provided by a particular open source organization before starting work on a task. All students must have a parent or legal guardian read the Contest Rules; the parent or legal guardian will need to provide their consent before the student can participate in the contest.  Students should review the full contest timeline too. How do students register for the contest? Once the contest begins at 9:00 AM PST (17:00 UTC) on December 7, 2015, students will be able to register by going to the Google Code-in contest site. Students must complete these two steps to register: Students must fill in their student profile on the contest site including agreeing to the Contest Rules. Students must have their parent/legal guardian complete the Parental Consent Form by electronically signing the form or by signing and uploading all 11 pages of the form (with the Contest Rules) to their student profile following the prompts on the site.

How do students choose which organizations to work with?

Students can work with one organization or multiple organizations during the contest. Students should review the home page of each organization to find one that interests them.

Why should students participate in the contest?

GCI is intended to introduce pre-university students to open source and to give them the opportunity to become part of the open source community they are working with.

GCI gives students the opportunity to put the skills they have been learning in the classroom or on their own to use in a real software project. Many students aren’t familiar with open source and GCI is an easy way for students to get involved in open source through international communities of volunteers (the mentoring organizations) who want to help them learn and succeed. GCI is a gateway to learning new skills as well as learning the importance of collaborative software development.

By having mentors from the open source organizations assigned to each of the tasks, students can ask questions and learn more about the ins and outs of all aspects of open source, from coding to code reviews, to writing clear documentation for users, to finding and fixing bugs in the software, and to talking to other people about the work the organization does.

At the end of the contest, students can show their friends, teachers, and family members the work they did on this public project used by thousands (or millions in some cases) of people.

How are the participating open source organizations chosen?

Google's Open Source Program Office chooses open source organizations from a pool of applications submitted directly to Google. All the organizations are required to have participated in Google Summer of Code and many have also participated in previous Google Code-in programs. We choose organizations that are accustomed to mentoring students online and across all time zones. More information on each of the 14 mentoring organizations can be found on the organizations' homepage on the contest site.


Do students need to be expert coders to participate in Google Code-in?

No, students do not need to be expert coders; they don’t have to know how to code at all. All students are welcome to choose non-coding tasks that may better fit their interests/skills. Non-coding tasks include  documentation, training, outreach, research, and quality assurance (e.g., find bugs and report them, etc.) tasks.

If students know a little Python or C++, etc., then we encourage them to look into the organizations that use those languages and see if there are tasks that they would like to try. Tasks are designed to be learning experiences and students are not expected to know how to do all of the tasks. We recommend joining the IRC channel or the preferred group communication for the organization (as mentioned on their contest home page) and asking if they have advice on which tasks would be a good fit for the student’s skills/interests.

What programming languages do students need to know?

If a student chooses to work on coding tasks, there are a variety of languages that the organizations use. Until we have announced the mentoring organizations for this year, we won’t know exactly what languages will be used but historically there have been tasks in Python, C++, C, Javascript, HTML, CSS and other languages.

Eligibility and Paperwork

Who can participate in the contest? What are the eligibility requirements?

  • Contestants must be at least 13 years of age and no older than 17 years of age when they register for the contest; and
  • Contestants must be enrolled in a pre-university program (e.g., high school, middle school, secondary school; in many countries outside the USA, the institutions are called “colleges”); and
  • Contestants must obtain their parent or legal guardian's consent to their participation in Google Code-in. A 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 the student will need to upload all 11 pages of the form (with the Contest Rules) to their student profile on the contest site.

Grand Prize Winners and Finalists will be required to submit additional paperwork, including proof of enrollment in a pre-university program before they can receive any prizes.

For full details, please see the Contest Rules.

Can homeschooled students participate in the contest?

Yes. During registration, there is a section where students can mark that they are homeschooled. When the parent or legal guardian agrees to the Parental Consent Form, they are attesting that the student is enrolled in a pre-university program that includes a homeschool pre-university program. If you have questions regarding this requirement, you can contact the contest administrators at

I turn 13 a couple of weeks after the contest starts. Can I participate in the contest?

Yes, but not until you turn 13. Students must be 13 years old when they register for the contest. For example, if a student turns 13 years old on December 15, then on December 15 they may register for the contest and begin working on tasks. Students cannot register for the contest until they are 13 years old.

I am enrolled in a university and am only 17.  Can I participate in the contest?

No.  Students are not eligible to participate if they are enrolled in a university, even if they are only 17.   Students are also not eligible to participate if they have already graduated a pre-university program and are in between the pre-university program and university.

I am in a high school but am 18 years old. Can I participate in the contest?

No.  Students are not eligible to participate if they are 18 years old, even if they are enrolled in a pre-university program.

Students that are 18 and are enrolled in university can apply to participate in our university program, Google Summer of Code.

Why do I have to give you my birthday when I first sign in?

We need your birthday to verify your eligibility in the contest per the contest terms.

When registering for the contest you will find the link on your Dashboard where your parent/legal guardian can electronically sign the Parental Consent Form at the end of your registration, after you have agreed to the Contest Rules. or You can download the Parental Consent Form (with the Contest Rules) from the website.

You will receive an email when your Parental Consent Form has been verified.  Please note, however, that you do not have to wait for your form to be verified before claiming and working on your first task.  Once you submit your Parental Consent Form on the contest site, you may claim and work on your first task.  Google will verify your Parental Consent Form when you submit the work for your first task.

If there is a problem with your Parental Consent Form, the contest administrators will send an email to you directly telling you about the problem and giving you a deadline to fix it. If the problem with the form is not fixed by the deadline, you will not be able to claim any additional tasks or receive any prizes and your account will be frozen until the problem is fixed.

Judging & Prizes

How do students decide what task to work on?

Students should look at the participating open source organizations on the Google Code-in contest site and choose one or more doing work that they find interesting. By clicking on the name of the open source organization, you’ll be taken to its individual contest home page, which contains information about the organization and resources for learning more. After the contest begins on December 7, 2015, a link to the complete list of all an organization’s tasks will appear on the organization's contest home page.

Each task will be labeled with descriptors like "documentation", "code”, or “python,” which will help narrow down the choices of tasks. After looking at the requirements for an individual task, if the student is up to that particular challenge, they can claim the task and start working on it.

How are individual contest entries judged?

Each entry is judged by mentors from the participating open source organizations. Entries must meet the requirements for completion specified in the task description. If the mentor finds the task to be incomplete, they will send the work back to the student with comments on what needs to be corrected/completed and the student may be given the opportunity to make those changes and resubmit their work for another review.

How are the Grand Prize Winners chosen?

When deciding on the Grand Prize Winners, the judges (mentors and organization administrators) from each open source organization will review the work of the 10 students with the highest number of tasks completed during the contest with their particular organization. Judges look at each student’s work considering creativity, thoroughness, and quality of work and will also factor in the student’s involvement in their organization’s community.

From the 10 highest scoring students, each organization will name 5 Finalists. From those 5 Finalists, they will declare 2 contestants as the Grand Prize Winners for their organization.

Because some tasks are more involved than others just by the nature of the type of task (for example, heavy coding versus finding a bug), it is entirely possible that someone who completed 15 tasks could be chosen as a Grand Prize Winner over someone who completed 35 tasks. If they are both among the top 10 point earners for that organization, they are eligible to be a Grand Prize Winner.

What do you mean by “community involvement”?

Involvement in the community includes things such as being active on the organization’s IRC channel or on a group discussion list. Judges like to see students who are involved in the open source organization’s community beyond just completing more tasks than their peers. Being helpful by answering questions of other students and demonstrating good communication skills are looked upon favorably.

I really want to win the Grand Prize! What can I do to increase my chances?

If you plan to try for the Grand Prize then we suggest working with only 1 organization. Most Grand Prize Winners in the past have taken a genuine interest in the community they worked with as well as producing quality work.

If I complete more tasks than all other students working with my organization will I automatically be a Grand Prize Winner?

No, completing the most tasks with an organization does not mean the student will automatically be a Grand Prize Winner. Doing quality work, making sure to take the time to thoroughly complete a task, really thinking about what the work means to the organization, and even thinking of ideas to expand on the task or to add features that could help the organization (creativity!) are what organizations will look at when reviewing all the tasks a student completed. Community involvement will also make a student stand out over other students; more so than the fact that a student did 5 more tasks than the next person.

I was a Grand Prize Winner in a previous Google Code-in contest. Can I be a Grand Prize Winner again?

No, you cannot be a Grand Prize Winner for this year’s contest if you were a Grand Prize Winner in a previous year’s contest.  You can still participate in the contest and are eligible to be named as a Finalist.

How will I receive my prizes?

Digital certificates, t-shirts, and hoodies (where appropriate) will start being shipped to the address the student provides in their profile after February 20, 2016.

If a student completes 3 or more tasks and lives in a Restricted Country (see next question below), they will not receive a t-shirt; they will only receive the digital certificate. If a student in a Restricted Country is named as a Finalist, they will not receive a t-shirt or hoodie; only a digital certificate noting they were a Finalist.  If a student in a Restricted Country is named as a Grand Prize Winner, they will receive the Grand Prize Winner’s Trip to Mountain View, CA and will be given their other prizes (t-shirt, hoodie) while they are on the trip in Mountain View.

What is a Restricted Country?

A Restricted Country is a country where we are unable to ship prizes due to shipping difficulties. These countries are Argentina, Belarus, Chile, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Peru, Russia, and Ukraine.

Students from Restricted Countries are welcome to participate in the contest, but they will not receive any physical prizes unless they are named as Grand Prize Winners and attend the Grand Prize Winner’s Trip in person.

Can students already working with one of the open source organizations work on that organization’s tasks during the contest?

It depends. As long as the student or a family member does not hold an official position in the open source organization (such as core developer or documentation working group member, or sit on the board of the organization), they are welcome to participate in the contest. For questions regarding eligibility, please contact Google's contest administrators at for help in deciding whether previous participation with the organization may violate the Contest Rules.


What is a task?

A chunk of work in one of the task categories listed in Question #2 below, suitable for a 13-17 year old student. The task will usually take between 3-5 hours to complete.

What kinds of tasks will I have to choose from?

Tasks are divided into the following categories:

  • Code: Tasks related to writing or 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
  • 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. Tasks will be available to claim when the contest opens on December 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM PT (17:00 UTC).

When can I start working on my first task?

Students can claim their first task after completing their student profile, including agreeing to the Contest Rules and submitting a signed Parental Consent Form (either by clicking on the digital version or by uploading all 11 pages of the signed form to their student profile on the contest site).

Once the required Parental Consent Form is submitted, a student will be able to claim their first task.

I submitted my first task but I can’t claim my second task. What happened?

If you have submitted your first task and are unable to claim your second task, that means that either (1) the mentor from the organization has not yet approved your work, or (2) the contest administrators have found an issue with your Parental Consent Form.

If your Parental Consent Form has an issue and the contest administrators contact you to fix it, they will tell you what the issue is with the form and give you a deadline to fix it. You will not be able to claim another task until you have successfully submitted your updated Parental Consent Form and the contest administrators have approved it.  

Once contest administrators have verified your Parental Consent Form and the mentor has approved your work on the task, you will receive an email notice that you can now go ahead and claim your next task.

What is a beginner task?

Beginner tasks are those that have been created by the open source organizations for students who are just getting started in the contest and aren’t quite sure where to begin. The beginner tasks will likely take less than 3 hours to complete and are often less technical in nature. Some organizations have created an introductory 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.

Is there a limit on how many beginner tasks I can complete?

Yes. Each student may only complete a total of 2 beginner tasks during the contest period, which may be 2 beginner tasks with one organization or 1 beginner task with 2 different organizations. Can I work on more than one task at a time? No, students may only claim one task to work on at a time. Is there a limit to the number of tasks I can complete? No. Students may complete as many tasks as they would like during the course of the contest, but may only claim one task at a time and only complete 2 beginner tasks.

Can I work on a task as part of a team?

While we encourage students to get help when they need it, only one student will receive credit per task. Participation as a team is not allowed.

Can I get help from the open source organization’s community and still take credit for completing a task?

Absolutely! We want students to get to know each organization’s community members and to understand their processes and requirements. It's totally fine to ask for help from the organization’s community when stuck, but students should try to solve the problem themselves before getting assistance. To put it a different way, students have 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 collaborating are not other contestants.

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?

A student can withdraw from a task at any time by selecting the “Abandon” button from the task page. Don't get discouraged; find something else interesting that is a better fit for your skills and experience and try again.


What is the contest timeline?

Date Event
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 Contest announced
Tuesday, November 3, 2015 Open source organizations can apply to be mentoring organizations
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 (9:00 AM PST / 17:00 UTC) Deadline for organizations to submit applications
Friday, November 13, 2015 Participating organizations announced
Monday, December 7, 2015 (9:00 AM PST / 17:00 UTC) Contest opens for entries by student participants
Monday, January 25, 2016 (9:00 AM PST / 17:00 UTC) All student work must be submitted; contest ends
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 (9:00 AM PST) Participating organizations complete all evaluations of students’ work
Monday, February 8, 2016 Winners announced on the Google Open Source Blog and contest site
June 2016 (exact dates TBD) Grand Prize Winner’s Trip

What is UTC?

UTC is Coordinated Universal Time. It is the basis for local time zones around the world. To convert to your local time zone from UTC you can use a time zone converter of your choice.

Tips for Students New to Google Code-in

Is there anything else I should plan to do as a participant in the contest?

We encourage students to subscribe to the contest announcement mailing list for updates about the contest as we will announce important deadline reminders on this list for students. We anticipate an average of less than 1 email a week to this list. Students looking for help can also subscribe to the contest discussion list. Those who subscribe to this discussion list should keep in mind that many people may be sending email to it; there are options to subscribe only for a daily digest email or to only browse the group online.

For help with Google Groups, please check out the documentation.  

What can I do to get ready for the contest before it starts on December 7th?

  • Read through the Contest Rules.
  • Tell your parent/guardian you wish to participate and have them read the Contest Rules and the Parental Consent Form found on the contest site and be sure they approve of you competing in the contest.
  • Review the “Getting Started” section on the contest site. We have asked the mentoring organizations what tips they would give students getting ready to compete in Google Code-in and we have gone into more detail on these items in the Getting Started tab.
  • Finally, 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 once the contest starts.

What is a Google account?

It is any Google account ( You can create a Google account for any email address. Your, or a Google apps address is also a Google account.

How do I get help when I have a question?

Each open source organization participating in the contest will include information about where to go to ask questions on their contest home page. Also be sure to read the details on each individual task as there could be additional communication details for certain tasks.

If the question is related to the contest itself (and not a specific task related question), you may send a message to the contest discussion mailing list. This mailing list is for students to ask questions that they have about the program that contest administrators, mentors or other students can help answer.

If the question is about whether your Parental Consent Form has been correctly submitted or if you need to change your shipping address and the registration page has already closed, please email contest administrators at Please do not post any private information to the public mailing list.

Information for Mentors and Educators

How can I be a mentor for Google Code-in?

You must be invited by the organization administrator to be a mentor for Google Code-in.

You should already be working with the organization that you wish to be a mentor for and you should let the organization administrator know that you wish to be invited to be a mentor for that organization.

Can I be a mentor if I am under 18?

Yes, if you are over 13 years old and have your parent or legal guardian's permission to participate as a mentor for Google Code-in you can register as a mentor.

Your parent or legal guardian will need to sign the Parental Consent and Waiver and Release (Mentor Participant) form before you can be invited by the organization administrator and register as a mentor.

Contact Google administrators at to request a copy of the special Mentor Participant waiver for 13-17 year olds that your parent or legal guardian will sign.

I am a teacher and would like to talk to my students about Google Code-in and encourage them to participate. Do you have any promotional or educational materials I can?

We encourage teachers to use our slide deck and flyers in talks about GCI.  These resources can be found on under References. You are welcome to translate these resources into other languages if you wish. You can also contact contest administrators directly at with any other questions.


How do I remove my information from the Google Code-in Archive?

Contact us to have information removed.

How do I find my work?

Use the summary email you received to see all the tasks you completed. The archive website has a description of the task and who completed it.

Where are the files I uploaded?

Uploaded files are no longer available for download.