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Sun hits the books

Company plans to sponsor a developer contest for students and to spin off its educational-resource program as a nonprofit.

Sun Microsystems hit the books not once, but twice Wednesday.

The server and workstation maker announced plans to spin off its educational-resource program for secondary-school students as a nonprofit organization. The company also plans to sponsor a Solaris 10 operating-system developer contest for college students. The moves come as Sun seeks to bolster the educational level of a potential work force, as well as spread the use of its technology beyond corporate America.

Sun is spinning off its Global Education and Learning Community as a nonprofit so that other companies and government agencies can participate. The GELC enables educators to collaborate on math and science projects, and serves as a means for distributing classroom materials.

"Barriers to education, whether cultural, economic, or physical, are being broken down by the confluence of education content and technology," Scott McNealy, Sun's chief executive, said in a statement. "One such trend is the use of open-source software to make educational materials freely accessible to everyone on the Internet."

Sun develops Java open-source software and markets servers that help power the Internet.

Meanwhile, the company is holding an international developer contest for college students, faculty and IT staff as part of its Solaris University Challenge Contest. The contest begins next month and continues through June of next year.

Teams of up to four members from the same university will develop projects that are based on, or work with, Sun's Solaris 10 or operating systems. Projects will be judged using criteria such as usability, innovation and originality. Winners receive $5,000 per team member and a workstation. The winning team's university will receive a $100,000 credit toward Sun products.