Saturday, June 25, 2011

Online F3F Result Calculation in Google Doc Spreadsheet

For the F3F Swiss Cup, I developed some google docs spreadsheets containing all necessary infos for managing our league contests: calendar of events with automatic registering links enabled between date ranges, online registering form feeding the participants list, result database for swiss pilots, etc. The whole system is working pretty well, is easy, and any updated data is reflected on the dedicated web within a few minutes.
Today, most F3F contest organizers carry a laptop or netbook to the field to calculate the contest results. Most if not all use some specific spreadsheet running in MS-Excel. This is great because the calculation sheet is pre-programed to process entered run times and produces a nice overall result table.
Once back home, the organizer uses different options to publish the contest results online: link to a PDF output file, JPG screen capture of the Excel table, etc. Mostly if not always, those exports are not very handy for the viewer. One has to zoom in eternally to see the small figures in a large table with many pilots and many flown rounds. Or the pixel size is just to rough to distinguish a 6 from an 8. Mostly, there's no way to copy the results onto some other file for archival purpose. Etc.

Exemple of JPG result table
I thought it would be great for the reader to scroll through results in a spreadsheet. One could leave some Excel file for downloading, but this would be a waste of hard disk volume for a file that will not be updated (if ever necessary) once downloaded. The risk of having multiple versions for one contest is then possible. Moreover, most Excel F3F calculation sheets use macros in VBA language and those macros do not work when the file is read in OpenOfficeCalc!
Then why not put all the calculation parts in the "CLOUD" to become independent of local software? I had two goals in mind:
1) I wanted to have the flight logs produced on SD memory card by my Arduino F3F wireless Timing system processed automatically to a full contest result sheet.
2) The contest results would have to to be immediately available online.
So I prepared a new google doc spreadsheet containing 8 tabs:
Tab 1 "Contest": in this tab, the organizer types general contest information like challenge, slope location and dates.

Tab 2 "RAW FLIGHT RESULTS": here, the organizer pastes the flight results. Of course, data has to be formatted the right way and in this case, the table is made for easily pasting my Arduino Timing System flight logs. But pasting data fro other systems or typing manually is possible. Mandatory fields are "Round", "Pilot number", "Name", "Penalties" (like -100), and "Run time" in seconds.

Tabs 3 to 7 are used for automated calculations and sorting of data. Nothing to manipulate there.
Once flights are pasted, all calculations occur automatically in the background (in tabs 3 to 7) and one gets the contest result table in the last tab "RANKED RESULTS".

If the organizer embedded the empty result table in a web page in advance of the contest, this web page will show the results less than 5 minutes after the data is pasted in the online file!
Of course, one needs to have a way connecting to the web to feed the data into the spreadsheet. But nowadays, many people have one of those data enabled handy mobile phones. In my case, the Galaxy S android can easily act as a WiFi Access Point through which I can connect my netbook to the web. After having opened the timing system log in OpenOffice, selected and copied the flight results rows, I need just a few minutes to enable the phone WiFi Access Point, open my browser to connect to the google doc spreadsheet, paste the data in the right tab and check out the final result table. After a rapid local download of the result table in PDF format I switch the WiFi Access Point off again.
That's it, I have a PDF for printing or viewing during result proclamation, and the contest results are already available to the F3F world on the web! I am convinced even the pilots present at the contest will review their day results on the web with their phones immediately!
My google doc spreadsheet is available here for those who want to try it out. I hope you can make a copy to your google doc repository. Else tell me.

There are other handy F3F applications made available with new tech. The F3F Timing System for android phones developed by Thibeau Ringenbach is one of them.

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