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Failing at 5000 Feet

by rboerner on February 20, 2011

in Uncategorized

The Aviation Safety Reporting System, created by the FAA and run by NASA, is a way for the aviation community to learn from the errors of others. In their own words, snipped from the ASRS’s website:

“The ASRS collects voluntarily submitted aviation safety incident/situation reports from pilots, controllers, and others. The ASRS acts on the information these reports contain. It identifies system deficiencies, and issues alerting messages to persons in a position to correct them.“

When someone makes a mistake while flying, they can file a report in the ASRS database. They do this so others can learn from their experience. Filing a report also helps pilots and controllers avoid prosecution for their errors. In the early nineties I worked for a company that compiled the ASRS database onto CD-ROM, and read through many of the reports. Though I am not a pilot, I can see how useful it is to have practical accounts of failures and successes.  It is one thing to fail while learning to sew (as I did recently), it is much more dangerous to fail while cruising at 5000 feet in the air.

Jigsaw doesn’t plan to build or operate airplanes in the immediate future. However, the benefits of having a body of knowledge outweigh the inconvenience of compiling it. For this reason we encourage everyone to document their process of creating and learning. You can share your knowledge by blogging, tweeting, podcasting, or coming to an event at Jigsaw and sharing your stories personally. By archiving your experiences—your ups and downs—you do a service to everyone that follows in your footsteps. Sharing knowledge is a key way to participate at Jigsaw.

While participating in the January Makerbot Meetup, hosted at Jigsaw, I witnessed this knowledge sharing firsthand. 3D printers, at least in the kit form that were present that night, tend to be fickle beasts. They require a considerable amount of time and care to assemble, and even more commitment to keep running consistently. There are online resources for 3D printing enthusiasts to access for help and information, however, having a large number of people with their collective experience in a single room was priceless. Hearing both seasoned and new users exchange their stories of both success and failure in their quest to produce even higher quality and complex prints was fascinating.

It was while listening to the various conversations going on that I realized just how important it is to document things. Not just the building and use of 3D printers, but anything and everything that happens as we learn and experiment. If we only learn from our individual mistakes, it is easy to become disheartened and give up. Learning from others’ failures can be a very effective teacher.

We are working to make it easier to document your projects at Jigsaw. Our website has been undergoing a revamp to make information easier to find. We have been expanding and re-organizing our wiki.  A focal point of both of these updates will be a showcase of our members and their projects. Recently Isa, documented his success and minor failures with his JigTwitch project. His and wiki article epitomize the essence of documenting while making.

We will focus not just on what or members made or why, but how they made it and what they learned as a result. By capturing information and making it easily accessible to others, we can encourage our community to make and learn more, and avoid repeating mistakes. As Jigsaw Renaissance evolves both its online presence and its physical space, we aim not only to spark a resurgence in learning, but to create a library of memories of our members successes and failures. We hope you will be a part of the journey.

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