Tag Archives: #engineerspeak

Working Virtually

Over the last couple of months the Mach 30 community has been talking more about the concept of virtual Makerspaces. I’m guessing that most of our readers know what a Makerspace (a.k.a. Hackerspace) is, but just in case, I’ll give you a definition I might use.

Makerspace (n.) – A space, normally a physical room or building, where people come together to share resources such as expertise, manpower and tools. This is done to help complete projects that the makers might not otherwise have the resources for.

Some people come just to hang out and see what’s going on, but most come to work on projects. Whether you’re working on arts and crafts or spaceflight hardware, I have yet to find a Makerspace that didn’t welcome all kinds of projects.

The Mach 30 spaceflight hardware developers are spread across the U.S. and we’re always looking for better ways to collaborate on protects. Traveling would be one way to work together, but that gets expensive. We recently changed our Thursday night Google+ Hangout schedule so that we could have a dedicated hardware (a.k.a. “#EngineerSpeak”) Hangout. This will allow us to partially address our collaboration needs.

 Mach 30 Hangout

A Typical Mach 30 Google+ Hangout

The intent was to make it free form so that the things the attendees wanted to work on was what would be worked on. Just like a Makerspace. The first week ended up being more of a normal meeting where I asked for feedback on the Shepard Test Stand software. That was a great Hangout that really helped but the second week’s hardware Hangout ended up feeling much more like a Makerspace, partly because of an engineering challenge that J. Simmons gave us.

The engineering challenge was to see if we could convert the Shepard Test Stand application from Processing to Python in 10 days. That way we could test Python’s viability for use in our Shepard 2.0 kits. As we started that second week’s #EngineerSpeak Hangout, we discovered the need to make some significant changes to the sample code that I wrote to meet part of that challenge.

Shepard Test Fire 2 - E12-8 engine

There were 5 of us in attendance, but Chris Sigman and I were the only two who had accepted J’s challenge. This diversity of interests and focuses had the makings of a great Makerspace environment. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  1. Even though Chris and I weren’t in the same room, we were able to work on the code collaboratively in real time. We worked through the code, sharing solutions to some problems and talking through possible fixes for others. The only thing that would have made it better is if we had both been logged into a shared code editor so we could have been editing “over each other’s shoulders.”
  2. Even though they weren’t working on the engineering challenge, the 3 other Hangout members hung around to work on their own projects. This allowed them to comment on what Chris and I were working on and share things about their activities as well.

It was 5 people sharing a space and resources, working together and independently in true Makerspace style. The Hangout ran long, but before it was over Chris and I had fixed the code and I was left with the feeling that this Hardware Hangout stuff might have some major potential. Couple that with the ability to work on our projects collaboratively on Open Design Engine, and we have a couple of powerful tools to allow us to do distributed development.

As time goes on we’ll be developing and refining our methods of distributed collaboration. It’s a critical part of our mission and we hope you’ll join us on the ride. Stay on the lookout for a future post on how we’re starting to use Open Design Engine as a virtual Makerspace as well. If you’re interested in learning more about Mach 30 and our hardware projects, please add Mach 30 to your Google+ circles and request an invite when you see Thursday night Hangout announcements.

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What IS it all about?

Updated Sept. 26, 2013 – SInce the time of this post’s writing, Mach 30 has modified the schedule for some of the hangouts.   Those changes are reflected in the current version of the post.

Hangouts that is.

Yes, they are meetings. Online meetings. We attend, blog and record them.   As there are changes afoot, we thought it was time for a little  explanation of how they work, or why they are important to an organization like Mach 30.

hangout logo-g+_dk

Google+ has an application known as a Hangout. It allows people around the globe to communicate via video conferencing. Mach 30 has taken full advantage of this free resource. As an organization that is scattered across the US, we use Hangouts as a virtual board room, general meeting room,  events location, and even a virtual Maker Space.The average hangout has an agenda, and topics germane to the meeting. It’s just like any other meeting of  like minded people. The big difference is that it occurs online. Historically, we have met every Thursday at  2200 (10pm), Eastern Time Zone.

Times are changing. Mach 30 has evolved. We have members who speak “#Engineerspeak”, and who are dedicated to inventing the next best space gadget. Others love space, but their interests are art, software, education, administration or photography.  We all have our niche, and to better facilitate the changing ‘face’ of the organization, we are altering our schedule. Thursday is still the day of choice. What we’ve done is reorganized the meetings. Three times a month, we will meet at 2100 (9pm) Eastern Time Zone, for non-technical meetings. Every Thursday at 2200 (10pm) Eastern will be dedicated to #Engineerspeak.

Our new schedule will look like this:

2030 (8:30 pm) Eastern Time Zone:

  • 1st Thursdays

These are our business meetings, known as Report Hangouts. Find out the latest and greatest news.

  • 2nd & 4th Thursdays

The meetings are for anyone and any topic. This is where planning for events, conferences, guest visits and general information occurs.

2200 (10:00 pm) EasternTime Zone:

  • Every Thursday is for  #Engineerspeak.  Here is where you will find out information from the scattered labs of Mach 30. Specific topics may be targeted.

Now that you have an understanding of how we use hangouts, how can you attend? On our social media sites we announce our meetings. Follow us on G+, Twitter or Facebook and when we announce a meeting, click on the invitation or comment on the post. We’ll get back to you at the time of the meeting with an invitation. Our Reports meetings are video taped and you can watch them anytime via YouTube.

Hope to see you soon!

Of Google+ Pages, Google Drive, and Hangouts

As most of our readers have already guessed, Mach 30 is a big fan of Google’s services.  We hold our meetings over Google+ Hangouts.  We store our documents in Google Drive.  And of course, we have an official +Mach 30 Page on Google+.  Most of the time everything just works seamlessly.  But, such is not always the case, as was demonstrated last month when we tried to hold a Hangout On Air with guest panelists who had attended the Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam, during which our live stream was completely busted, and after which the video was deleted by YouTube for an unknown reason.

After licking our  wounds, owning our mistakes, and much research, I am happy to report we have a much better integration between the +Mach 30 page, our YouTube Channel, our Google Drive storage, and Google+ Hangouts.  Specifically, we can now run Hangouts from +Mach 30 and use Google Drive (instead of +Ezri Clarke, a fake account we set up to allow us to do this in the past).  As a bonus, the Mach 30 YouTube channel is now integrated into the +Mach 30 page, with its own tab at the top.

And how do I know all of this works?  Why, I tested it, of course (with a little help from our volunteer, Jaye Sudar).  And here’s the proof.

Warning, technical content

For those that want to know how we made all of this work, here are step by step instructions.  Of course, they are provided without warranty and with the usual disclaimer that YMMV.

  1. YouTube Integration with Google+ Pages (based on these instructions from Nonprofit Tech Blog)
    1. Login to YouTube with the account that manages the organization’s channel (we had a shared account for this purpose)
    2. Go to YouTube Settings
    3. Click the Advanced link
    4. Click the “Connect with a Google+ Page” button
    5. Select the Google+ Page you want to link to your YouTube channel
    6. Click the “OK” button to confirm the change
  2. Setup username and password for Google+ Pages (based on these instructions from Google)
    1. Open a browser, we will call Browser 1, and log out of all Google Accounts (this step is optional if you do not use multiple Google accounts, but is highly recommended if you do, it can save a lot of grief later on)
    2. In Browser 1, login to the owner account for the Google+ Page you are working with (note, the owner account cannot be a Google Apps/Custom Domain account, it must be a standard Google Account – if this is not the case, change the owner of the page to a standard account and start over with step 2.1)
    3. Now follow the steps in Google’s instructions for adding a username and password to the Page (click Pages, select the Page you are working with, click on Settings in the Google+ menu, click “Setup username & password”
  3. Integrate Google Drive
    1. In a second browser, we will call Browser 2, logout of all Google accounts
    2. In Browser 2, go to http://plus.google.com and login with the username and password for the Google+ Page you are working with
    3. In Browser 2, go to http://gmail.com, you will be prompted to choose an email address (this will be the login name for the Google+ page in all Google Services, like Google Drive); I recommend something like “plusmypagename@gmail.com” so the username is easy to remember (you will be asked to confirm the new email address using text message or phone call, follow all of these steps until you get to the Gmail Inbox)
    4. In Browser 2, go to http://drive.google.com
    5. If you have existing Google Drive files or folders that you need to use in Hangouts, go back to Browser 1, go to Google Drive and share the files/folders with your new user account for the Google+ Page (chosen in step 3.3)
  4. Test, Test, Test
    At this point, everything should be good to go, so now it is time to test

    1. In Browser 1, visit the Page you are working with, and verify there is a YouTube tab; click it and you should see a list of videos from your YouTube Channel like this one
    2. In Browser 2, start a normal hangout by clicking on the “Hangout” button in the “Share” box on the Page’s home page
    3. Invite one or more attendees to help with the test
    4. Be sure to add Google Drive files to your hangout and verify both you as the Page and the other attendees can edit the files and see each others’ edits
    5. Close the Hangout
    6. In Browser 2, start a Hangout On Air by selecting “Hangouts On Air” from the Google+ menu, then scroll down until you see the “Start Hangout On Air” button on the far right and click it
    7. Name the Hangout, and invite attendees
    8. Again, add Google Drive files to the Hangout
    9. When everyone is ready to start, click the “Start Broadcast” button and wait for the broadcast to go On-Air
    10. Again, verify both you as the Page and the other attendees can edit the files from Google Drive and that you can see each others’ edits
    11. Be sure to say a few words and make sure everything is recording and broadcasting correctly
    12. When you are done, click the “End Broadcast” button
    13. Verify the video shows up in your Page’s stream and on your YouTube channel

If you can get through all of that, you should be good to go.  Happy  Google+’ing!

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