Rowan University Students Create Mobile Timer App
RunSignup continues its partnership with Rowan University by working with its talented computer science students through the university’s Computer Field Experience course. As part of this program we sponsored two 6-student scrum teams that were tasked with planning, designing, and implementing a solution based on RunSignup’s project specifications to create a mobile app that provides timing for smaller races.
The RunSignup Mobile Timing App project intention was to create a solution for events with lower registration counts that may not be able to afford timing equipment and the associated timing service costs. Less attended events typically can not justify hiring a professional timing partner, but still need to be able to provide basic race finish times and upload those results to the RunSignup platform. The project’s goal was to provide the students practical experience by tackling a real-world issue. The end result is that they delivered a solution that makes use of readily available mobile devices and combines the old fashioned manual tracking of finishers with today’s technology.
How Traditional Race Timing Works
The Mobile Timing App project set out to automate the traditional manual method of timing a race using a chute and bib tags. Timing a race using this traditional method has four main steps.
Step 1: As runners cross the finish line a volunteer (The Finish Line Timer) captures the finish time of each runner by using a stopwatch with split time functionality.
Step 2: Runners enter the “finish chute” to order them into a single file line.
Step 3: Another volunteer (The Tag Tearer) rips off the bib tear tag in the order of finish.
Step 4: The ordered finishing tags from the Tag Tearer are manually matched up with the times from the Finish Line Timer to produce the final results of the race. Those results are then entered into a spreadsheet so that they can be uploaded into a race management system like RunSignup to publish the results.
Mid-size and larger races can afford professional timers with sophisticated timing equipment that seamlessly reads finish times of participants as they cross timing equipment at the finish line and transmits the data to scoring software like RunSignup’s RaceDay Scoring. This project aimed to bring similar automation to a small race using volunteers and their mobile devices.
RunSignup Mobile Timing App
The student teams built an application that has three modes to streamline the steps described above.
- The Timing Mode allows a timing volunteer to hit a button each time a runner crosses the finish line, thus recording their time. The teams added features to cover multiple runners crossing the finish line at the same time and a way to delete mistakes.
2. The Chute Mode allows a second volunteer to quickly type in bib numbers in the order they come through the chute. The Chute Mode also provides ways for the Chute volunteer to edit the order and correct mistakes.
3. The Mobile Timing App also has a third verification mode that allows for a verification step to ensure the correct order, edit results, and prepare results for upload to RunSignup.
The App uses the RunSignup public API to display the athlete’s name corresponding to the bib numbers, and ultimately to automatically upload results directly to the RunSignup system.
The Rowan University teams had to learn a platform independent programming language (React) in order to meet the requirements to have the App run on both Apple and Android devices. The project was operated using the Agile Scrum methodology and students worked in 2-week “sprints” where they demonstrated working software at the end of the sprint to RunSignup project sponsors. They demonstrated best practices with respect to source code control, testing, and documentation throughout the project.
It was a productive 12-week run and both student teams produced impressive results that included working applications that met all of the business requirements. Professor Jack Myers led the class mentoring and challenging the students to success. RunSignup’s Matt Avery served as Product Owner giving feedback on the business requirements.
The culmination of the class was a final presentation and demonstration of the projects. The demonstration included “class participation” where RunSignup employees downloaded the apps and tried them out for themselves. One of the teams even ran a mock race in the hallways of RunSignup to do a real-life test! Here are some photos from the final presentations.
Nathanael Costa continues to work with RunSignup on the RaceDay team as part of an ongoing coop program with Rowan!
Great job to all the Rowan Univeristy students who participated! Thank you for all your hard work and sharing your talent with us. It was a pleasure to see your ideas come to life and we look forward to your future achievements!
RunSignup Mobile Timing App Availability
RunSignup is discussing making this available to its customers as a free add-on product, but no definite plans on commercialization have been decided. In the meantime, we’ve made the app’s source code available as an open source project licensed under the Apache 2 license. Anyone can use this code and complete the final productization steps to make it available in the various App stores.
This project has served as a spark for RunSignup to consider releasing an add-on to the RaceDay Suite which would make a RaceDay Mobile Timing App available to customers. So, stay tuned!