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. 

  1. 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.