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First You Fail, Then You Succeed at Maker Camp
By: Jim Hodges

It's as new as today, as old as Thomas Edison: "Fail often in order to succeed sooner (and learn faster)."

NASA Forward Maker Camp, which is being held in NASA Langley's Navigation Center in Building 1212 on Thursday and Friday, is designed to succeed. Along the way, though, failure is inevitable.

In fact, in a couple of the projects – called "events" with Maker Camp – failure in some form already has happened. The events are designed to build on that failure to foster success in building an environment of innovation with as many people as possible involved to contribute to that effort.

"Having already identified barriers (to innovation), we would like to add to that list, propose some solutions and come up with ways to communicate those solutions," said Charlie Cimet, a researcher at the National Institute of Aerospace who has done some of his work at Langley.

Maker Camp 2011.
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Credit: NASA

His "event" involves creating an open-source component in which people contribute ideas, and a live-forum component of discussion and collaboration to come up with a "product": a document to address the issues and propose remedies.

And that's only one of the "events."

Another, led by Dave Covington of the Engineering Directorate, seeks to create a collaborative, cross-disciplinary environment for solving problems.

"We're looking for at least a dozen people," said Covington, adding that he hopes that those people come from various disciplines across the center.

They will be asked to attack one of three problems that can only be solved by engineers working with scientists, with procurement people and lawyers being part of the solution. The idea is that a creative and innovative environment can come only with that kind of cooperation.

Another "event," said Dan Oostra, involves creating mobile apps and evolves from his work in the Science Directorate, where he and colleagues work to present data from various projects to the public, which generally accesses the information through computers.

"There were more Smart Phones than laptops sold last year," said Oostra, who pointed to a need to generate applications for those phones without having to go through an expensive regimen of hiring experts for the various phases of the production process.

More than 100 million apps will be produced this year, only six years after the first app came out.

"We want this to be a primer for creating apps using cloud-based technology," Oostra said.

For more information on the apps "event," please visit:
Maker Camps are being held in at least four NASA centers -- Johnson, Ames, Dryden and Langley – and Langley's will be first, offering others a template. "Because it's the first, there's no metric for success," said Eileen Spillane, a member of Langley's Emerging Professionals organization, part of NASA Forward. The goal in Maker Camps is to foster a climate of innovation, produce quick-hitting products and involve as many people as possible to add to the process. Much of this is done through communication across disciplines, across generations, across experience levels.

"The overwhelming goal with Maker Camp is to bring a lot of people together with a lot of different resources that they might not have access to ordinarily," said Sarah Crecelius, who is working with Oostra on the mobile apps "event."

All of that almost certainly will generate failure – seeing it as a likely step to ultimate success.

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman