07 May 2008

Real World Access (37)

One of a series of articles about where Microsoft Office Access applications have found a real-world niche.

 Jack Cowley's Rodeos

The general consensus seems to be that if you are cowboy or cowgirl and want to enter a rodeo, you fill out a form, pay your entry fee, and wait until the appointed day. After everyone has signed up, the participants’ names are drawn from a hat, and if your name was drawn 5th in bull riding, then you are the 5th rider out of the chute.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is so complex that it takes hours and hours of manual labor to get people in the order in which they finally get their turn to participate in the rodeo.

Rodeos usually have a ‘main’ event or ‘performance’. Some participants want to be in this event, and some prefer not to be, preferring to be in a later or ‘slack’ event. Or they can select to be in ‘slack’ if they don’t get chosen for the ‘performance’. Or they can choose to be excluded from the rodeo if their number is not drawn for their preference, whether it be ‘performance’ or ‘slack’.

And this is just the beginning! There are team events (2 people), and a person can be in multiple team events and individual events and they can choose to be excluded from all events if they can’t be in their individual events and team events in their preference of ‘performance’ or ‘slack’.

This seems easy enough. But each person and each team is given a randomly generated priority number, and that number determines where they are in the order of the event. A low number and you can go near the end, which is good, as you can see what your competition has done. But if you do not make it into your individual event (‘bad’ priority number), you can choose to be excluded from your team event as well… or not!

Just to add to the confusion, the Barrel Racing event is the reverse, so you want a low number as you go first, not last, so you can set the time to beat.

Basically everyone gets the randomly generated number and then you start trying to put him or her in the events and performance(s) they want to be in. If there are more people signed up for ‘slack’ and not enough for ‘performance’ then a high priority numbered person in ‘slack’ will be moved to ‘performance’.

This has all been done with 3x5 cards and lots of shuffling and moving of cards and reshuffling and more moving, until you end up with a rodeo ready to go. With over a hundred plus people signed up for an ‘average’ rodeo, that is a lot of shuffling and reshuffling!

Now we are doing this with an Access database. Currently a beta version of a simple rodeo can be generated in just a few seconds, saving many hours of manual work deciding who gets to ride and when.

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