The Thomas J. The Meehan Scholarship fund provides underprivileged high school and middle school students with a financial need the ability to attend school that would have been previously impossible for them to intend. The scholarship is in memory of Mr. Meehan, who was advocating for all kids, especially those kids who had challenged circumstances growing up. Mr. Meehan provided a safe, stress free environment for kids, athletes and non-athletes to talk and relax. Every year the scholarship holds a golf classic and several other fundraisers that are meant to help raise money to send another student athlete to Episcopal Academy. However, over the past few years attendance at these fundraisers has been decreasing mainly due to the lack of an online and digital presence of the charity. The lack of this presence was due to the lack of experience and general fear of change from the mail order or check forms that were used for years. This fear stemmed from the age of the scholarships managing partners.
How it works
The website is designed so that I would allow anyone with no programming experience to modify or add materials to the website. This was accomplished by using the Microsoft Azure platform in combination with WordPress and Eventbrite. The front end of the website created using WordPress and giving the ability for administrations to register to be able to add content easily to the website without the need for a web development firm's involvement. The back-end was generated using the Microsoft Azure portal and customized using command line scripts that allow for more advance remote management functions like user management, database modification, data exports and several more advanced functions. When people go to register for an event, it will prompt them for what types of tickets they want i.e Golfer, Non-Golfer, Sponser, etc. When they select a ticket they will then be required to add some important information like contact info, shirt size, company affiliation, etc. These options change depending on the option these fields are printed on their tickets as well as exported using Google Analytics to the SQL server on Azure.
Challenges I ran into
I originally designed the website using Visual Studio in C# however, quickly realized that this website would require me to manage all content and problems in regards to the website which was against the idea of the solution. Some issues that were found were in the event registration process how the data was going to get back to the SQL server without the need of an advance administration from the EventBrite system. Another error was in granting non-technical administrators only access to areas that would not damage the website's functionality. Several of the management scripts were difficult since there was generally a personal knowledge gap when it came to how Azure managed resources and handled the website auto-generation and auto-scaling. When adding some more advanced features to the website using webmatrix I created some errors which caused me to have to shut down the website temporarily in order to roll back changes. While in webmatrix I realized that I forgot to modify the visual files after modifying the behavior of some GUI objects.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
The website not only allows the scholarship to move into the digital era, but also allows those individuals that had problems with the idea of a website to still have access and control over the content without the need for the technical experience. This no experience entry point is not something that I am solely responsible for since I heavily utilized the Wordpress UI for development but is something that I had not thought possible before this hackathon.
What I learned
I learned a lot about website development since until today I had not actually created a functional website before. I mainly work with hardware, so the initial learning curve for website development was very large, however Microsoft tools made the creation and management of the website fairly easy. I learned a lot of the Microsoft Azure platform and the implementation of websites and how they are deployed to the cloud. Very pleased with how much I learned about using Microsoft WebMatrix and Visual Studio.
What's next for Thomas J. Meehan Scholarship Fund Event Registration
After the HackAThon I will create a step by step guide for adding content to each page of the website with photos to be easy to follow and learn. The website has a lot of room for growth with the possibility of monthly email updates on current student athletes receiving the scholarship as well as school athletics which can be seen on the websites RSS feeds. Some other areas include embedded event registration system to prevent the added fees included by using a 3rd party registration software. However, all of the growth areas of this website depend on the ability for its primary users understand existing website systems.