Using Barcodes in Contest Automation

George Norris
IAC 23070 -- Chapter 69

Some activities performed in the Contest Ledger or the Volunteer Log are repetitive, time-constrained, and generally less well-suited to the classic mouse-based Windows interface:

An alternative, barcode-based, interface has been added to both Contest Ledger and Volunteer Log to perform these function.

Setup

      Using barcodes requires two items, a special Barcode Font on your computer and a Barcode Scanner to read it.  A freeware 3-of-9 Code font is provided in the Contest Automation distribution; BAR-CODE-3-9.ttf.  This is a TrueType font which is copied to the directory in which you keep the Contest Automation programs; copy this file to your Windows Font directory (this is C:/WINNT/Fonts in Windows 2000) and the operating system will install it with an odd name like "C39HrP24DhTt".  You will also need a scanner capable of reading and decoding Extended 3-of-9 code.  Most usable low cost scanners include the decoder and plug into a USB or keyboard port and produce virtual keystrokes recognized by Windows. We use a low cost USB wand (Unitech USB Barcode Wand MS100U) available for less than $120.

Contest Ledger

     Final registration is one area that can become a bottleneck when several pilots show up to complete their sign-up.  The registrar collects the pilot's entry forms, asks a series of questions, sells merchandise and collects money.  This can be speeded up by using a precoded set of barcoded responses, which replaces several mouse-clicks and keystrokes with a single barcode swipe. 
    Before  registration starts, be sure and enable barcodes in the Contest Ledger with the  "Contest Ledger", "Toggle Barcodes" menu.  Similarly, answer "Yes" to the "Use Barcodes?" start-up question in each instance of the Pre-Registration program.  Print out a Barcode Response Sheet by using the "Contest Ledger", "Go To Page", menu and selecting "BarCodeEntrySheet".  Print this using the Excel print toolbar button or "File", "Print" menu. 
    Start the process by selecting the "Contest Ledger", "Scan Entry Form" menu instead of the usual "Finish Registration" menu when a pilot shows up for final registration.  This opens the dialog shown below:

Scan the barcode (as shown) on the lower left hand side of the first page of the Contest Entry form.  This will 1) find the pilot's name,  2) locate the corresponding pre-registration information, 3) enter the information into the Contest Ledger and 4) open the Volunteer Data dialog.  Make any changes there and press "Save".  This will bring up a "Fly for a Patch" dialog; scan the appropriate entry under "Categories" from the Bar Code Response Sheet. This will bring you to a series of Yes/No questions; scan the appropriate "Yes" or "No" response from the upper left hand side of the Barcode Response Sheet.  The Ledger will then advance to questions about quantities of food or merchandise; respond with numeric quantity scans from the left hand side of the sheet (or the "skip" response).  When you get to "Chapter Dues", scan an amount from the upper right hand side or a "skip".  At this point you have a total amount owed; enter the appropriate Payment scan and you're done!

    Merchandise sales work similarly, start with the "Contest Ledger", "Sell Merchandise" and continue with scans from the Quantities section of the Barcode Response Sheet.

Volunteer Log

     Assigning volunteers to positions can be somewhat slow.  You have to select a position and then assign an available volunteer to it.  The standard method is to open the Volunteer List window, select the first entry in the Volunteer Log worksheet, and then double-click each name as the program advances the Volunteer Log position after the previous entry (top to bottom, then left to right).   You can also use barcodes to accomplish this task; the ergonomics of scanning codes may more closely approximate your accustomed methods, while still vastly reducing entry times and keeping all of the data checking functionality.
    Before  starting, be sure and enable barcodes in the Volunteer Log with the "Volunteer Log", "Toggle Barcodes" menu.  Print out a current Volunteer List using the "Volunteer Log", "Go To Page" menu and selecting "Volunteer List".  Be sure to decide which volunteer sorting you prefer, by Name or by Judge Status / Flying Category,  and select it with "Volunteer Log", "Sort Volunteer List" menu before printing.  Print out the Barcode Assignment Sheet (needed for the double scan method below) by using the "Volunteer Log", "Go To Page" menu and selecting "Position Barcodes".  Print this using the Excel print toolbar button or "File", "Print" menu. 
    Open the Volunteer List Window using the "Volunteer Log", "Show Volunteer List" menu.  Go to the "Barcode Entry" tab (as opposed to the normal "Mouse Entry" tab), which will display the dialog window below:

Check that your printed Volunteer List matches the internal volunteer database by pressing the "Verify List" button.  You will then be asked to scan the barcode on the upper-right hand corner of the page.  This will compare the sorting method and last time the database was updated and tell you whether you can proceed or must reprint the list.

  Two modes are available: "single scan" and "double scan".  Single scan uses only a barcode from the Volunteer List and automatic position advancement on the Volunteer Log worksheet to enter assignments (moving the cursor manually with the mouse also works) .  Double scan uses a Position barcode followed by a Volunteer barcode to enter an assignment.  Single scan takes less scans, but you have to enter the assignments in the order of advancement on the Volunteer Log worksheet.  This works well for copying assignments from a previously determined log sheet.  Double scan takes twice as many scans, but you can enter the assignments in any order, and works better for ad hoc assignments.  The mode is determined automatically by the scan (volunteer or position) and can be mixed and matched.

Single Scan

    Position the cursor on the Volunteer Log worksheet to the assignment you wish to start with (normally Chief Judge, Known Flight, cell D4).  Select the "Insert Name into All Flights" if you want to do an initial assignment, leave unchecked if you are making changes to a single flight.  Be sure the cursor is set for scan entry by pressing the "Arm for Scan" button.  Then locate the person you want to assign to the first position on the printed Volunteer List and then scan the barcode on the far left, opposite the name.  The assignment will be made if no rules are broken and the cursor will move to the next position down and, upon reaching the bottom of the page, go to the top, one column over.  If a rule is violated, no entry will be made and a warning dialog will be opened.  Continue by scanning the volunteer for the next position.  When done, close the window and save your work with a backup or archive.

Double Scan

    Select the "Insert Name into All Flights" if you want to do an initial assignment, leave unchecked if you are making changes to a single flight.  Be sure the cursor is set for scan entry by pressing the "Arm for Scan" button.  Then 1) scan a position code from the Barcode Assignment Sheet followed by 2) a volunteer code from the Volunteer List.  The assignment will be made if no rules are broken or a warning dialog will be opened.  Continue by scanning the next position & volunteer or simply scan the next volunteer if the automatic position advancement is satisfactory.  When done, close the window and save your work with a backup or archive.