The Fedora Project, a Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT) sponsored and community-supported open-source collaboration, Monday announced the newly created Fedora Scholarship program recognizing college and university-bound students across the globe for their contributions to free software and the Fedora Project.

The inaugural scholarship recipient for 2008 is Ricky Zhou, who will attend Carnegie Mellon University this fall. The project did not disclose his home town.

The Fedora Scholarship program furthers Red Hat and the Fedora Project’s commitment to helping develop and foster up and coming talent in the open source software field.

It evaluates applicants on criteria that include the quality of contributions made to Fedora and other free software projects, references provided by Fedora community members, the amount of time the applicant has been contributing to Fedora and the overall quality of the application.

Recipients will receive a scholarship to be applied toward tuition for the student’s college or university education. In addition, the recipient will receive funding for travel and lodging at the Fedora User and Developer Conference (FUDCon) nearest his or her location for each year of the scholarship.

“Free and open-source software is a major disruptive technology, and provides boundless possibilities for developing technology skills. The Fedora community recognizes the importance of exposing technology enthusiasts at an early age to the possibilities of free and open-source software, and working in an innovative community effort like Fedora is the best way to develop and hone these skills,” said Paul Frields, Fedora Project leader at Red Hat.

“We hope the Fedora Scholarship serves as a catalyst for younger generations to become involved in open source projects and continue the positive momentum behind not only Fedora, but all free and open-source software.”

As a Fedora contributor, Zhou has made numerous contributions, including work with the infrastructure, Web sites, localization and package-maintainer teams. He began working with Fedora by updating and theming the project’s various sites and applications.

Zhou has also helped with the localization of Fedora and translating its Web site across multiple languages to make Fedora more accessible worldwide. On the Infrastructure team, Zhou has assisted in administering servers and developing Web applications.

He has also worked on porting applications to work with the Fedora Account System to improve the new contributor experience. More recently, Zhou has become involved in packaging and reviewing software for Fedora.

“I first started contributing to Fedora in 2007 and was impressed by the fast-paced development and innovation along with the community’s encouragement to get involved in projects that interest me,” said Zhou. “Working with Fedora has been a very fun and educational experience for me, which has definitely motivated me to continue contributing to open source software. My work with Fedora has also influenced my prospective career choices. I really like the idea of working closely with a large community, such as the academic or the open source community.”

The 2009 application window opens Sept. 1 and will close Feb. 16, 2009.