Sunday, June 5, 2011

Introducing Track and Field Clipboard

It is a fairly simple idea and I had even talked about it before, but this past week I decided to actually build it. As someone who has been around Track and Field meets since I was very young, it was a perfect opportunity for me to build an application for an Android Honeycomb tablet. The basic idea is to replace the clipboard, paper, and pencil used to record scores for field events with a tablet.

When Google gave a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to everyone attending Google IO (including myself) there was a less than subtle nudge to "go forth and create apps." Not wanting to spend all of my time playing Angry Birds and now Plants vs Zombies, I decided to actually build a fully functional and useful application.

While I have one other application on the market and another long term project that has an Android component, I wanted to specifically focus on Honeycomb. While the application I build could have targeted phones, that was not my goal. The use case for a small screen is far less attractive, but the biggest motivation for only focusing on Honeycomb was simply to learn some of the new APIs and methodologies. I have spent some time working with the compatibility API for fragments and developing a pure Honeycomb application seemed like a more enjoyable activity.

Now a little bit about the application itself. I finally settled on the name Track and Field Clipboard for the application. Breaking with my long tradition of open sourcing my side projects, I have decided to keep this application close source. However, it is available for free on the Android Market. There is the possibility of me adding some advanced features in a paid version of the application if it gains some adoption.

The application is designed to be very easy to use. You create an event, add participants, and then record marks. The field events that are supported include Discus, Shot Put, Javelin, Long Jump, and Triple Jump. High Jump and Pole Vault are not supported since the rules for those competitions are significantly different and more complex.

The main benefit of using this application as opposed to an analog piece of paper is the automation that it provides. If the competition has flights, the athletes that qualify for the finals along with the order is automatically determined. Each participants best mark is highlighted to provide an accurate summary of the results at the current moment. Additionally, each participants current place is also available along with a view that summarizes the results. After you have finished with the event, the results can be emailed.

My goal here is to have this application just be slightly ahead of its time. There is not a large adoption of Android Tablet users at track meets yet, but with some luck that may change in the next year.

I need to thank Cassie for her help with the graphics (as always). I also need to thank my father for helping me work out some of the details to make sure they matched what would be expected by the user. He also served as my first actual user at the Bluegrass State Games yesterday.

In the end, my goal is to help bring technology into a new area and provide a good user experience. Hopefully I can find some users. More likely, I hope some users can find my app.

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