Solutions

Non–profit organization uses FileMaker Pro to simplify online registration and inventory management processes.

FIRST

Reaching out to help middle and high school students build an interest in the practical, real world aspects of science and technology — that's what they do at FIRST. The acronym means "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," and this New Hampshire non–profit takes full advantage of the latest advances in information technology, managing its vital data with FileMaker Pro, the award–winning database software application from FileMaker Inc.

Overview

  • FIRST, a non–profit organization inspiring young people to pursue interests in science and technology, uses FileMaker Pro to automate its online program, registration and contact and inventory management processes, improving efficiency and reducing staffing.

Industry

  • Non–Profit

We can add remote staff nearly anywhere in the world and still tie them into our database via the web. We're continuing to expand our use of FileMaker Pro — on the web, and off.

— Eric Rasmussen, Engineer, FIRST

Business Challenge

"Our mission is to design innovative and accessible programs that build not only science and technology skills and interests, but also self–confidence, leadership, and life skills," explains FIRST engineer Eric Rasmussen. Founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the "Segway" personal transport device, FIRST's major annual events are the FIRST Robotics Competition which combines the excitement of sport with science and technology to create a unique varsity sport of the mind for high school students, and the FIRST Lego League, which uses LEGO Mindstorms technology to inspire middle school students to become future scientists and engineers. In addition, the organization maintains FIRST Place, a Manchester, New Hampshire facility offering a range of science and technology programs designed to appeal to primary school children.

Administering these programs requires the management and manipulation of a great deal of data — student registrations, tallies of competition scores, and general everyday office functions. "Several years ago, we recognized a lack of scalability in our registration process for the FIRST Robotics Competition," Eric recalls. "Teams would fill out paper forms and fax them to us, and we'd manually type them into our FileMaker database. It was time consuming for our staff and frustrating for our customers, who often found themselves competing for available fax lines. We recognized we had to make the process a lot more scalable — or hire more employees than we could afford."

Successful Solution

"We quickly realized we needed to transition to a web–based registration system," Eric continues. "Initially we developed a simple stand–alone program that would capture data from a web form and email it to a team representative, who would then transfer the data into FileMaker Pro. Unfortunately, this didn't provide feedback to the customer if any information was missing, and was still labor intensive for our staff."

Eric and his team took a closer look at FileMaker Pro itself, and realized it was possible for the software to connect directly to the web, without the need for manual data entry. "We began working with Joel Bowers, a consultant who is a local member of the FileMaker Solutions Alliance," Eric relates, "and created the Team Information Management System. It's been running successfully since 2001, and we anticipate over 900 teams will use it to register for our next FIRST Robotics Competition."

FileMaker Pro has allowed us to greatly scale up the number of customers we can handle with only minor staff growth.

— Eric Rasmussen, Engineer, FIRST

Customer Benefits

The Team Information Management System takes data directly from applicants into the FIRST database. "It allows customers to key in their own information, and immediately prompts them for missing information," explains Eric. "It also can handle much more data than our previous process; it handles event registration and mailing lists, and even lets potential new teams search for events or other teams in their area via a map on our website. As a result our small staff of team representatives can now service many more customers, and we're using our sponsors' and customers' money much more efficiently. FileMaker Pro has allowed us to greatly scale up the number of customers we can handle with only minor staff growth. This in turn, has helped us to keep our budget balanced and to bring our programs to a larger geographical area, because we can add remote staff nearly anywhere in the world and still tie them into our database via the web. We're continuing to expand our use of FileMaker Pro — on the web, and off."

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.
408-987-7227
kevin_mallon@filemaker.com
http://www.filemaker.com

For FIRST:

Eric Rasmussen
Engineer
FIRST
603-666-3906 ext. 444
ear@usfirst.org
http://www.usfirst.org