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Peter J. Westwick on Aerospace in Southern California | The ICW Blog
"The Aerospace History Project, under the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, is an effort to document the history of the aerospace industry in Southern California and the economic, cultural, and physical effects on the region and beyond. The project collects the papers and oral histories of key individuals and institutions across the aerospace industry, creating a permanent, central resource.

The Director of the Aerospace History Project, Peter J. Westwick, is Assistant Research Professor in the History Department at the University of Southern California. He received his BA in physics and PhD in history from UC Berkeley, and has taught at Yale and Caltech. His research focuses on the history of science and technology in the twentieth century U.S. He is the author of several books including Into the Black: JPL and the American Space Program, 1976-2004, and The National Labs: Science in an American System, 1947-1974. He is also editor of Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California.

In the following interview, Peter reveals how he became involved with aerospace history, some of the most interesting things he came across while working with the Aerospace History Project, and current projects."
california  socal  aerospace  2015  peterwastwick  economics  culture  environment  aerospaceindustry  jpl  skunkworks  lockheed  shermmullin  harveychristen  benrich  claencejohnson  pasadena  huntingtonarchives  planetarysociety  tomjones  alhibbs  caltech  charlesgilmore  lymangilmore  grassvalley  history  kellyjohnson 
december 2015 by robertogreco
No Dickheads! A Guide To Building Happy, Healthy, And Creative Teams. — Medium
"There is a perpetuated myth within the design community, that a single visionary is required to build great products. Rubbish. Great teams build great products; moreover, in my experience, the greatest teams prioritize and nurture a healthy and positive internal culture because they understand it is critical to the design process itself.

In 20 years of leading design studios and teams, ranging from a small boutique consultancy to several in global corporations, I have become obsessed with the differences between a successful studio and a merely effective one. Inevitably what makes or breaks a studio depends on its ability to evolve skills and competencies while remaining fastidiously creative. However, simple adaptability is not enough. In an ever-changing hyper-competitive landscape, what I’ve found to be even more important is the value of laughter, empathy, a collective responsibility and a distinct lack of ego.

My measure of success — beyond incredible products — has been creating studios and a studio culture where the creative capacity of the collective team is palpable; where designers love to come to work, and visitors remark how positive and creative it feels.

The following, is an attempt to create a guide for the (often-overlooked, humanist leaning) behaviors that make a studio happy, functional and sustainable. I believe there is a straight line between how the studio feels, how we as designers treat each other, and the innovative impact of the team. The value of articulating the characteristics of an effective studio will hopefully make each team member a more conscientious contributor. Of course, these characteristics will ebb and flow to varying degrees and should not be considered concrete rules. Rather, these behaviors serve as a guideline for creating a consistently positive, and as a result, a consistently more creative place to work.

SAY GOOD MORNING AND GOOD NIGHT … While it may appear trivial, the act of observing (and even encouraging) these subtle cultural rituals increases a studio’s functionality by making it more personal.

BE OPTIMISTIC, EMBRACE FAILURE, AND LAUGH MORE… Design, through a humanist’s lens, sees optimism as a choice and creativity as an optimistic act. Therefore, constant optimism is a key ingredient to iteration. It fuels the persistence and tenacity necessary for sustaining the creative process, especially during challenging times. For example, the difficulty of innovating within a large corporation reflects a work environment where people often say, “No” or “I don’t understand” because change in corporate culture is often uncomfortable and slow. As a result, negativity must be confronted and countered — not just in a brainstorming session or during a proposal — but on a daily basis. …

EAT AND COOK TOGETHER … Team events within a big corporation are set up to facilitate these informal conversations but often do the opposite: you go to a nice restaurant, everyone orders expensive food and lots of wine, they drink until they get drunk, and you go back to your hotel room. One year, our budget ran low so we thought, “What if we did the opposite? Go to the wilderness, buy food, and cook for each other.”

What happened next was amazing! Somebody invariably took responsibility for cooking, another for preparing food, and someone else for laying the table. Without much discussion the whole team was buzzing around the kitchen, like a hive working towards a common goal. There’s something inherently vulnerable about cooking together and for each other. It’s humbling to serve and to be served.

GOOD STUDIOS BUILD GOOD WALLS It is important when you walk into any studio that you feel as much as see what is being built — the studio should crackle with creative energy. Specifically, I believe you can determine the health of any design studio simply by looking at its walls. …

READ FICTION … As designers we are often asking people to take a leap of faith and to picture a world that doesn’t quite exist. We are, at our essence, doing nothing more than creating fiction and telling good stories — an essential part of human communication. Wouldn’t it then make sense to, at the very least, invite fiction into the studio or at the most encourage it to flourish?

Storytelling is a craft. It’s emotional and it’s part of the design process. We should therefore read and study fiction.

DESIGN THE DESIGNING There’s one very simple rule when innovating: design the process to fit the project. …

EMBRACE THE FRINGE I believe creative people want “to make”. In corporations or complex projects, the products we make often take an inordinate amount of time. As a result, I assume that most designers (myself included) work on fringe projects — creative projects made outside of the studio. …

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE Language defines the territory of projects. It is therefore important to constantly check that people share the same understanding of a word, phrase or name. Ideally at the outset of the project you should define the language, almost to the point of giving each person on the team a list: when we say this, this is what ‘this’ means. This pedantic approach is particularly important in multicultural studios where a diverse language encourages multiple, sometimes volatile, interpretations …

MEET OUT IN THE OPEN There are very few highly confidential things in an effective studio, so why go in a room and close the door? Instead, move most conversations out in the open. They will be better as a result. …

EVERYONE LEADS AT SOME POINT … At any point everyone should feel the responsibility, or the opportunity, to lead. It is so important to be collectively responsible. No one person can lead these dynamic projects effectively in a studio because they are never two-dimensional. …

INVERT EVERYTHING Designing products for people requires that you get inside their minds, feelings, motivations and values. To do so, a smart designer must invert their own worldview and see the world through someone else’s eyes in order to empathize with them. This ability to empathize with others, a very humanist behavior, is perhaps the most important capability and characteristic of both a studio and a designer. …

HIRE A BOOKIE Competition motivates a team, that’s a given. But betting on shit seems to be galvanizing and brings a team together. …

BRING THE OUTSIDE, INSIDE … We spend most of our time with our colleagues at work rather than with our partners or families. So whether we like it or not, we are all going through this life together. We should embrace that fact.

Yes, I understand people value privacy and you must respect that boundary. But the reality of the modern studio is that boundaries often blur. In fact, I think it is good that they are blurred. Children, pets, and hobbies — shared human connections and interests — promote this intimacy. …

….. ALLOWED! … I believe it is a perpetuated myth that great products are built by a single visionary. Often the people who think they are visionaries are just egomaniacal Dickheads. I honestly believe that great teams build great products and that careers are made by people that prioritize great products first, not their own ambition. …

FIND A GOOD MIRROR The studio mirror is a distinct role and a job title. In our studio Luke’s role was to archive our work and reflect it back to the team in a unique way, much like the documentation of these principles. Pursued with persistence and the eye of a journalist, the Studio Mirror should capture not only WHAT is being made but HOW and by WHOM. This isn’t simply dumping files on a server but rather curating the content in a way that is compelling and consumable for the team. For example, our studio created a quarterly magazine. You can read ADQ2.1: The Launch Issue here."
rhysnewman  lukejohnson  teams  creativity  studios  openstudioproject  lcproject  2015  collaboration  tcsnmy  leadership  open  openness  transparency  process  fun  play  intimacy  sharing  language  storytelling  fiction  walls  design  place  work  food  optimism  failure  laughter  howwework  conviviality  cohabitation  facetime  relationships  publishing  reflection  documentation  jpl  omata  culture  fringe  display  planning  outdoors  criticism  connection  conflict 
march 2015 by robertogreco
How NASA scientists are turning LA into one big climate change lab | California Watch
"Today, Mount Wilson is the site of a more terrestrial but no less ambitious endeavor. Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and elsewhere are turning the entire Los Angeles metro region into a state-of-the-art climate laboratory. From the ridgeline, they deploy a mechanical lung that senses airborne chemicals and a unique sunbeam analyzer that scans the skies over the Los Angeles Basin. At a sister site at the California Institute of Technology, researchers slice the clouds with a shimmering green laser, trap air samples in glass flasks and stare at the sun with a massive mirrored contraption that looks like God’s own microscope."
losangeles  climate  science  jpl  nasa  via:javierarbona  emissions  air  airquality  cities  climatechange  research  megacities 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Luke Johnson: Mysteries and Curiosities Map of JPL: How can design influence an established culture?
"It was during this walk that I first realized JPL was a lot like the television show Lost."

"The map functions as a tool to orient new employees, encourage Lab explorationg for current employees, and to put a human face on JPL for the outside public."

"Armed with a GPS tracknig device, camera, and a trusty pair of shoes, I walked to every buidling on Lab in numerical order. What I thought would take a Saturday afternoon took 22 hours over the span of four days at a walking distance of 52.2 miles."

"The map itself is divided into two sections. The front is an Insider's Guide containing information I wish someone had explained to me when I began working at the Lab. The back provides several Walking Tours. A Welcome Pack and Website/Smartphone App were recently funded."

"The creation of a new design practice requires a certain entrepreneurial spirit and chutzpah"

[via: https://twitter.com/Bopuc/status/267163844512714752 ]
wayfinding  nasa  california  exploration  cartography  mapping  maps  buildings  numbering  numbers  lost  alexandersmith  davidmikula  juliatsao  christianeholzheid  erinellis  pasadena  jpl  lukejohnson 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Hannah Higgins: The Ghosts in the Machine: The Secret Lives of Experimental Artists in the Mainframe Era // Mobile Processing
"What do IBM, Bell Labs, the Jet Propulsion Lab and National Security have in common with dust, dead chickens, the Czech avant-garde and Vietnam protest? This talk will present the secret lives of experimental, performance and protest artists on the mainframe computers of the 1960s. Through a series of seemingly unlikely friendships, an international constellation of engineers and artists collaborated in the emergence of the digital arts"

[I hope there's a video of this eventually.]
skunkworks  experimentation  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  history  digitalarts  interdisciplinary  2012  towatch  1960s  mainframes  art  jpl  belllabs  ibm  hannahhiggins 
november 2012 by robertogreco
NASA - Rover Leaves Tracks in Morse Code
"NASA's Curiosity rover took its first test stroll Wednesday Aug. 22, 2012, and beamed back pictures of its accomplishment in the form of track marks in the Martian soil. Careful inspection of the tracks reveals a unique, repeating pattern, which the rover can use as a visual reference to drive more accurately in barren terrain. The pattern is Morse code for JPL, the abbreviation for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover was designed and built, and the mission is managed.

"The purpose of the pattern is to create features in the terrain that can be used to visually measure the precise distance between drives," said Matt Heverly, the lead rover driver for Curiosity at JPL."
tracks  morsecode  2012  marsrover  jpl  nasa 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Crazy Smart: When A Rocker Designs A Mars Lander : NPR
"Steltzner's path to becoming team leader for this new Mars lander was hardly direct. Unlike many successful engineers, he struggled at school. An elementary school principal told him he wasn't very bright. His high school experience seemed to confirm that.

"I passed my geometry class the second time with an F plus, because the teacher just didn't want to see me again," he says.

His father told him he'd never amount to anything but a ditch digger, a remark he still carries with him years later.

Maybe that's because school wasn't a priority, particularly with the distractions of the flower-power era in the Bay Area.

"I was sort of studying sex, drugs and rock and roll in high school," says Steltzner. It wasn't just the long hair. "I liked to wear this strange Air Force jump suit. And my first car was a '69 Cadillac hearse. I put a bed in the back."

After high school, the plan was to be a rock star. … played bass guitar in Bay Area bands… But then something happened."
unschooling  deschooling  engineering  marslander  nasa  2012  learning  physics  curiosity  marsrover  science  education  jpl  adamsteltzner 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Forever Future | Sascha Pohflepp
"Every technology is embedded within society and the factors which contribute to a certain vision of the future are complex while its promises may be simple and alluring. … We do not know what happens when technological dreams don’t come true, both on a cultural and on an individual basis. The assumption is that ideas, once they have been part of the public imagination, do not go away. They might go to another place we do not have an expression for, a cultural limbo from where they might be materialized at another point in time. This place might be shared with ideas from science fiction, a pool of possible futures which engineers and entrepreneurs are tapping into. There might, however, be futures that for various reasons may never materialize, which appear to be speeding away and thus stay at a certain distance from us. Phantom futures that some even feel a certain nostalgia for, because they may have been part of the dreams and wishes of their life."
technology  future  futures  designfiction  saschapohflepp  jackparsons  jpl  rocketry  society  ideas  memory  expression  time  culture  limbo  culturallimbo  engineering  phantomfutures  via:preoccupations 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Wikipedia trumps Britannica
"At start of writing book I bought subscription to Britannica...worried that Wikipedia might be inaccurate...discovered that Wikipedia trumps Britanncia all the time...articles are in more depth & provide better references...site design...is easily navigable & focuses on content, whereas Britannica’s site assaults eyes w/ distractions. Initially, I’d find myself double-checking facts on Wikipedia by looking in Britannica...After weeks...realized that Britannica wasn’t helping. Any errors found on Wikipedia were because I was reading original source material...more often than not [found] via Wikipedia...policy of linking to reliable sources turned out to be wonderful starting point for research. Britannica, on other hand, appears to view role as being reliable source. Because it is edited & managed, part of brand is reliability...leads to a sort of self-sufficiency which contrasts with Wikipedia’s need to prove reliability constantly...[resulting in] wealth of 3rd-party links"
wikipedia  reliability  britannica  enyclopedias  research  tcsnmy  online  web  learning  via:preoccupations  collaboration  nasa  nytimes  history  jpl  nobelfoundation 
april 2010 by robertogreco

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