Low/no code platforms for creating scouting apps?

For several years, we’ve used low code app/form building platforms to create custom scouting apps for the games. Key requirement has been offline scouting data collection on student phones that syncs back up to the cloud (& then gets dumped into a Google Sheet) once there is a connection. For a few years, we used AppSheet (now owned by Google), and last year one of the students found JotForm & wanted to try it, so we did… Both platforms worked well.

I just looked at JotForm, and it seems like they may have restructured their service offerings, and one thing I notice is a monthly limit on form submissions, though the “Silver” tier with 2500 form submissions per month should be enough. (Or maybe they always had limits & I just didn’t know. I wasn’t too involved in this last year.)

I’m curious what other platforms beside AppSheet and JotForm teams use. I’m aware there are plenty of custom scouting solutions teams share publicly, but in this case I’m interested in low/no code platforms being used that allow full customization of the scouting app and enable offline data collection that syncs to cloud later.

Thanks – Chris

I’ve heard great things about Epicollect5. I haven’t used it much myself but i’ve heard great things about it from @MikLast who would be able to explain the ups and downs of using it.

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How about paper forms? We get our stuff into a half-sheet of paper, and it all feeds into a Google Sheets document on a USB-tethered laptop. Design your form and the entry spreadsheet right, and it is not hard at all to keep up with the flow of matches. And even if the data entry person needs to take a break, the offline sync capabilities are incredible. :wink:

(Bonus: you won’t get hosed when a kid forgets to charge their device.)

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In 2019 we had a really good experience with MIT App inventor. A student and a mentor created an application to run on tablets we had, and then used blue tooth to sync it to main computers.

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+1 to Billfred’s paper-sheet-Google-sheet solution above. We used slips of paper in 2022 that then went to our scouting captain and he aggregated the data manually. Imagine how much a spreadsheet would add!

The trouble with online forms is that making the layout and input nice either takes a fancy platform or some code, as simple forms (e.g. a Google Form) are hard to update information in in-place, like you would when tallying scored game pieces in real time. Plus, you either need an internet connection or a system for local data transfer, which are both more effort than handing a specific person slips of paper and having them chuck the data into a spreadsheet.

The best scouting thing we have used is fires scouting app.
Tons of information available when you use this app.

Unfortunately, I still have yet to interact with EpiCollect5 as its missing a key feature, incirmental counters. The EpiCollect5 devs refused our request to add in this feature a couple years ago, and disabled allowing users to edit their code even farther back, which makes it difficult to recommend for scouting use.

My goto solution is still Appsheet. Pure Gforms rely on an internet connection (and this bit us hard back when Mount Vernon was still an event) and I do not recommend any other team attempt trying to do an online only solution if at all possible.

Google Forms

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I’ve also been looking into low code scouting apps. While I’m still trying to find a team to test my system, it is written up here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sUbGGYIPTf4TcYKd23teUpw4pM_SN03JtdrcbRp1qmQ.

This is not a full scouting system. This is just the front end data collection portion of a scouting system. I would pair it with paper forms or Google Forms.

My key criteria were for the following:

  • Low Cost
  • Tactile Data Collection
  • Easily Adaptable to New Season Game

As I was thinking about various scouting systems, I discovered the micro:bit pocket-sized computer (https://microbit.org). This covered the low cost. With an inexpensive accessory it also covered the tactile data collection.

The micro:bit is used in several coding classes, workshops, and summer camps. It was designed to be an entry point to coding. With Microsoft’s MakeCode development environment (https://makecode.microbit.org), it covers the easily adaptable criteria. This also allows students to program it using a Chromebook, which more and more students have access to from school. (Less and less students are getting Windows or Mac computers, so compatibility with Chromebooks keep this accessible to a larger group of students.)

Again, I haven’t tested this, but I think this is a great way to bring new coding folks into the team. Their first year, while they are trying to learn about FIRST and game play and how events run, they can develop and use the scouting software in the micro:bit. After their first competition, they are more familiar with FIRST and will be even stronger at coding the robot. Too often our newest team members get pushed aside during events because the veteran team members are under time pressure and just want to get the work done. This scouting tool gives first year team members something they can focus on and they can see that they are contributing to the competition in a concrete way.

I’m hopeful that this will inspire students to see the micro:bit as a computer and they find even more ways to use it in real world situations as opposed to something that they have grown out of after advancing their coding skills.

I also think this is an entry to another fundraising opportunity. Teams can host summer coding camps using the micro:bit. They can have younger students learn to code using the micro:bit, explore coding in real life through robotic projects, and introduce the younger campers to the possibility of joining the robotics team when they get older. I’ve worked with some teams that host summer robotics camps with LEGO Robotics kits, but those are roughly $500 each. It is a significant expense to get enough kits to host a camp. The micro:bit provides the opportunity to host a coding camp and the cost of the computers is built into the camp registration fee and the campers get to take their micro:bits home with them.

For teams looking for a super quick/simple solution (although not as useful as a full app) our team has used google forms linked to a google sheet in the past to enter scouting data on scouters phones and have it compile onto the google sheet. It’s not as nice to use as an app, but if you are short on time the day before an event it’s super great to have something up and running in an hour.

Our team modified Scouting PASS and used it for off season event this month. Worked very well. It was light and was linked into TBA for team/match number and created a QR code that is easily read into scouting lead laptop. Need to work on getting data results regularly (cellular data card probably) into shareable spot so that drive team could use during qualification matches. Sorry Josh, meant to reply to topic and not to your msg.

Would it be possible to use a system like Scouting PASS but modify it to send data over the Google Sheets API to get real time data if scouts have cellular on their devices? I don’t have a whole lot of experience with scouting PASS or the sheets API so I’m not sure if this is even possible or if it would be doable with low code but it might be a interesting option to look into.

Thanks for all the helpful responses. Using platforms like AppSheet and last year Jotform has worked well for us in the past because no extra hardware or paper or anything was needed… just student phones they will already always have + chargers . Looking at pricing I suspect we’ll go for the Jotform silver plan at $25 a month (half off regular price for academic customers) since it allows plenty of form designs and form submissions per month. It takes some digging to find the academic pricing page, so here it is in case anyone’s interested: Take Advantage of 50% Educational Discount with Jotform.

It doesn’t cost anything to try, btw. The app creator user interface is pretty easy to use. Last year, the student who led scouting had a good time with it & also developed some solid spreadsheet skills using pivot tables and customizable charts against the resulting data in the Google Sheet.

Now that the students have solid spreadsheet skills using pivot tables, experiment with Tableau. There is a voucher for it in the Virtual Kit of Parts. This is designed to take raw data from a spreadsheet and do visualizations and other data analysis with it. It definitely takes the data analysis way beyond what you can achieve within a spreadsheet program.

Since scouting should help with developing a pick list as well as adapting match strategy, you need quick analysis. Often being able to turn the mass amounts of data into a visualization can help you get that near real time information from the scouted data.

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+1 to the recommendations of Google Forms. It’s no code, very easy, and free of charge. One key downside is that they don’t offer a “counter” widget. This would be something with +/- buttons that enables click-to-count repeated scoring actions such as cargo going into the hub. You can get by with radio buttons or a number input, but it’s less than ideal. It most other respects, it’s a great choice.

In our experience, connectivity has been a real problem at some events, so now our “app” (which is really just a couple hundred lines of html/css/javascript) generates a QR code that represents a single spreadsheet line and then the main scouting laptop uses a cheapy QR code gun to scan in each scouter’s qr code into the spreadsheet.

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This is something we’re looking at adding into Scouting PASS for the 2023 season. We’re strictly offline scouting, but it has been one of the most requested features.