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TWiki Success Story of Portland State Aerospace Society

The Portland State Aerospace Society is a student club at Portland State University, in Portland, Oregon, USA. We provide students with an opportunity to be involved in a multidisciplinary engineering activity: the design and implementation of sounding rockets. The club is staffed with engineering undergraduate students, a few graduate students, a faculty advisor, and a few helpers from industry.

Part of our budget has come from NASA via the Oregon Space Grant, and it stipulates that our design and methods be openly accessible to the public, and use off-the-shelf and open source solutions as much as possible. As a result, we want our design notes and findings to be as public as possible. TWiki helps us do this.

The PSAS web site prior to TWiki was a static website managed by one of the program leads. Primarily, it communicated to interested third parties what the group had accomplished in prior projects and launches, and it hinted at work underway. It was difficult to keep information up to date, track what happened at meetings, and the like. Leaders naturally want to be focused on running the project, not updating an entire website with every detail.

TWiki has taken over the informational and historical aspect of the prior website, and gone on to serve as a information space to aid in the development and tracking of the current project.

The present website uses a TWiki Skin to simplify the page formatting and provide uniform site navigation, It replaces the headers and footers that TWiki usually puts on the page. This is great for the casual browser visiting the site. There are a handful of links at the bottom of the page, including "Expert", which turns off the Skin and restores the standard TWiki headers and footers. Other links include "Search", "Edit" and Attach". The last two bring up an authentication dialogue box, which limits changes to content on the topic to only our team.

Our TWiki serves as a communal design notebook, allowing us to be much more productive and communicate better. We place schematics, scan in sketches, attach digital photographs of whiteboards, scribble notes, meeting minutes, design concepts, and the like on the TWiki and send out email to the group to notify them that there is new, interesting material available. The pre-TWiki static website could not have performed this function. Each team (avionics, airframe, ground support, logistics) has a team home page and can place their notes, plans, and documents there.

The site organizes the same underlying detail with several top-level hierarchies... there are the Team homepages, which I mentioned, most useful to those of us on the project doing designing. There are also Project homepages, which are of interest to people browsing our website. There's also a Schedule homepage for partners and friends who want to track when our next launch is. With TWiki it is simple to provide multiple hierarchies pointing at the same low-level data.

TWiki will help us keep some parts of our website private to the group. All of the public information is kept on a TWiki Web called "PSAS". Recently we added another TWiki Web which stores more sensitive information, like team member phone numbers and addresses. This web is set up to be viewable only with authorization against the password list.

Without TWiki, we'd not have gotten so far so fast. TWiki allows everyone to correct, update, add, tweak, and refactor our website. It makes our project more fun, and our communication far better connected. If you have any further questions about PSAS's use of TWiki, please contact us at the address off our website's Contacts page. Thank you.

-- JamesPerkins - 26 Aug 2002

Update: The PSAS site has added the "GPS" TWiki Web, for a related Free Software project. We also discovered that we had plenty of processing power to survive being Slashdotted (http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/06/10/025222) - our configuration is Linux 2.4.20, Celeron 366MHz, 100baseT ethernet and very well-connected. We used the TWiki PublishAddOn but it didn't seem really necessary after all. -- JamesPerkins - 19 Jun 2003

After I stopped being active with the team, they changed the site to other wiki implementations including moinmoin and now they are tinkering with ikiwiki. So the PSAS site may not be TWiki anymore but there's no performance or technical reason TWiki wouldn't have continued to serve well -- JamesPerkins - 04 Jun 2007

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Topic revision: r6 - 2010-07-04 - PeterThoeny
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