Thursday May 30, 2013
Since 2006, South Burlington High School students have provided the Vermont City Marathon with a custom application to track runners who receive medical services in the Medical Tent, located at the race finish line. Immediately after their AP Computer Science exam in early May, students dive into the project, which involves creating a database that will be primed with runner registration data. They also write a client application that runs on multiple laptop computers the day of the race. At the marathon, students setup a secure wireless network to connect their client computers with the database server.
At the event, three students enter runner names or bib numbers into the database as injured athletes enter the tent. This timestamps the runner’s entrance and marks him as being in the tent. When the runner checks out of the tent, or is transported to Fletcher Allen, the record of the runner’s vital signs and all treatments administered are entered into the database by a larger group of students. This captures the data electronically, enabling VCM organizers to better evaluate the services rendered to athletes and determine how to improve medical services at future marathons.
Since the students’ application captures the times a runner enters and leaves the Med Tent, they can tell almost instantly whether a runner has entered the tent, is currently in the tent, or has checked out. They can also tell whether the runner was taken to the medical center, left on her own, or was accompanied by a family member. This information is very helpful to people who have become separated from runners they are supporting.
Each year, students seem to want to completely rewrite their program, often selecting an entirely different programming language than that used the previous year. This year, SBHS junior Tristan Ohlson handled the heavy coding tasks. He received a great deal of help from former student Tenzin Lhakhang, who has participated in the project every year since 2006. Kristian Wetzel helped with program development, and Champlain College student Leif Erkenbrach showed up unexpectedly at the event to help enter data, and added a custom search application that he wrote on the spot. SBHS Technology students Cristian Jablonski, Ben Park and Arya Rahmati helped enter data at the event.
VCM medical support organizers have come to depend on this database application. The project is a great community service effort that involves applying learning to a useful, real-world project that benefits a large number of people. Students value the experience, as demonstrated by the way they return year after year to tackle it again.