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East Lake High Robotics Team Gets Competitive Edge With AppSheet

Courtesy of Pinellas County Schools Alex Wisner is a senior at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, Florida. But he’s also one of the leaders of the school’s FIRST Robotics Competition program. Globally, the program consists of over 91,000 students, all working to build robots that can outperform the competition. “There are a lot of students in the program, but only 40 at our school. Between classes, homework and everything else, we still could never get ahead on data collection,” said Wisner. “We also ended up buried in a sea of paperwork. We needed a better way, and a mentor of mine introduced us to AppSheet.” Cost controls and time management with apps Robotics competitions require lots of scouting and data collection. Team members will watch competitions in person, checking out performance and specifications of each robot. Outside of direct match scouting, pit scouting is a secondary component on which teams are judged. This element judges the teams on their ability to scout and report on the hundreds of decommissioned robots. All in all, one day of scouting could mean notes on hundreds of robots and matches per day—all before the actual final rounds of the competition begin. In years past, this has meant between 600 to 1,000 pieces of paper with disjointed notes that could not be easily gathered, stored, tracked or acted upon. Now throw in the fact that no member of the robotics team is around for more than 4 years. The turnover complicates the idea of consistency for the program. But with a cloud-based app, the team has a data-driven strategy for continuity and success. East Lake Robotics gets the AppSheet advantage Last year, the club tried to make its own prototype app. But because there were interoperability issues and glitches as all devices were not supported, the team wanted to consider other alternatives. They decided to start fresh with AppSheet. “I do have ample coding experience,” said Alex, “but it would have taken me 4 to 5 hours of work every day for nearly a month to build a similar app. Because AppSheet is so intuitive, and its UI is so simple, I built the working prototype for our app in maybe two or three weeks, just in my spare time.” The results to date have been considerable. No wifi, no problem: Competition guidelines do not allow for Internet access during competition. Fortunately, East Lake Robotics has been able to use their app without an Internet connection, gathering data without any downtime. Costs savings: High school clubs don’t typically get the budgets they need, or want. So when Alex was able to find a solution that cut pallets of paper from their annual budget, it was a lifesaver. Time management: Time, too, is money. So when the team doesn’t have to commit hours a day to building or maintaining an app—let alone gathering and sorting data—it becomes freed up to utilize precious resources elsewhere. Only the beginning The FIRST Robotics Competition program operates under a code of “Gracious Professionalism”. So while all teams are seeking a win, the nature of the event is one of collaboration and innovation. That said, Alex hopes to share his team’s app with other competitors in the future. This will in turn help to inspire greater final products and push each group to be their best. To learn more about AppSheet, click here.  

Field Service & Political Campaign: Big Data Solutions in a Texas Mayor Race

The ability to gather data about voters, hone in on specific slices of a demographic and tailor a message to constituents has been a game changer in how political campaigns are run, predicted and won. While many organizers at the local level understand that big data tools can give a particular candidate an edge, those tools have historically only been available to high-power corporations or giant political machines — but new technology and services are leveling the playing field. Big ambitions, small budget When tech consultant Alejandro Lamothe came to work on the San Antonio mayoral campaign for Manuel Medina, he wanted to leverage data and technology in order to create a more effective way to reach supporters and urge them to get out on election day. The challenge was that a custom-made app or software that could do this would be far too expensive for Medina's grassroots campaign. Medina’s campaign involved a lot of block walking, with volunteers going door to door, speaking with potential voters. The issue was that volunteers were still using paper and clipboards, taking polling data and transferring it to Excel Sheets and Google Calendars. Ultimately, this was an inefficient way to make a report and store data. Though this personal and old-fashioned method of connecting with voters was effective, it needed some help from modern digital methods of utilizing data. A powerful solution Faced with an array of data living on different formats (Smartsheet, Excel, Google Docs, etc.), Lamothe set out to find a way to bring all these together in a single database equipped with a number of features that would make analyzing and collecting the data easier. Lamothe turned to AppSheet to create a customized app. The process was remarkably easy, as AppSheet was able to consolidate the many spreadsheets of existing data. As a result, he was able to develop an entirely unique app suited for the campaign’s unique needs. With the app, volunteers and pollsters were able to use this powerful tool right on their cell phones with the following features:  All information canvassers gathered was automatically saved and updated in real time. This meant all team members had access to continually updated voter information. A dashboard that gave an overview of the total number of people and households reached, demographic information and who they were likely to vote for. This information was further segmented into voting districts. The app utilized Google Maps to mark which homes had been visited, whether people were home or not and if the canvassers needed to return. Relevant voter information (age, gender, who they were most likely to vote for) was conveniently stored alongside this geographic information. Though many were older and not digital natives, the intuitive nature of the app was remarkable. Within two weeks they were able to reach around 35,000 individuals, greatly expanding their database and improving the campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort. Simple, accessible, revolutionary For Lamothe, the process of seeing an app take form was, in his words, “enchanting.” What he most liked was the ability of the app to draw data from multiple platforms, making the entire process highly streamlined. “I believe the app will transform and change how people will use information,” Lamothe says. In a world where being able to properly use data is increasingly important, organizations of all sizes will want to look into unique, app-based solutions to meet their needs. Please check out Alejandro Lamothe's video here on how he designed the app and how volunteers used the app. Not sure what app might be helpful to you? Go to our Sample App page, copy apps for free and customize your apps your way. Citizen Developers are Workplace Innovators. They build custom apps to improve and optimize work processes in their organizations, introducing innovative ways to "get work done." As citizen development becomes the new normal, it promotes innovation, agility, and flexibility throughout an organization. To learn more about AppSheet and citizen developers, check out the following page:

Deep Dive: Best Practices to Build Inspection and Data Capture Apps

  Over 1.5 million form submissions are captured via AppSheet apps every month, that's over 15 million data points! These data include location, images, dates, signatures, and even simple dropdown selections. AppSheet apps are a favorite tool for inspectors and other field teams who need to collect structured data not only because AppSheet apps are flexible and rich in data types, but because they take advantage of all the power of mobile devices. During our last webinar we covered best practices and tips to build better inspections and data capture apps with AppSheet. We even made a free template app for you to copy and modify to your needs! Here's what we covered: 18:36 Using Formulas to Simplify Data Collection You can use formulas in almost every aspect of AppSheet. You can use DISTANCE formulas to filter out locations, formulas to create dropdowns in a specific field, and formulas to hide or show questions based on a previous response.  Column Structure: Key, Hidden, Required, Dropdown, Valid_if, Show, etc. Pre-select Inspectors: Initial Value - USEREMAIL(), Valid_if DISTANCE: Security filter for table properties; Differences between Security Filter and Slice Skip Questions and Pre-calculate Stuff 41:36 Using Actions to Accelerate Data Capture If you want to accelerate data capture with common patterns of data, you can use actions. Actions will let you COPY an existing row and then update the data that need to be changed or even do bulk edits to the same column in multiple rows.  Copy Rows: Effect Bulk Edits: Actions 53:16 Using UX to Simplify Data Entry Many app creators are tempted to concentrate their data capture option in a single form, but there are several UX features that can help data capture. For example, you can start a form by dropping a pin on a map, or you can start a form by adding a new item to a related table, like create a new job for an employee from a table that lists all employees.  Do you have any tips and tricks for better data collection? Share them on our social media channels! Other deep dive webinars: UX Design, Project Management, Web Security and Privacy. Or go to AppSheet youtube channel for more videos.