With a bicycle he rents through Partners for Active Living's Hub Cycle program, Darren Rose bikes about 24 miles round trip to and from work.
Rose, 48, says he hasn't been late to work as a grill master for Red Lobster on Spartanburg's west side in three years.
“People who say they can't get to work? They can use me as an example,” said Rose, who has borrowed a bicycle from Partners for Active Living since 2010.
For Partners for Active Living employees, tracking bicycle usage using spread sheets and Excel could often be tedious and time consuming, said Audrey Sperry, Partners for Active Living's active lifestyles coordinator.
The organization reached its 1,000th rental in the fall, and has a fleet of 300 bicycles, about 150 to 200 of which are rented out and renewed each year. For a $15 deposit, the Hub Cycle program offers a helmet, lock and bicycle to each user, and as long as the user renews on time after 90 days, they may keep the bicycle. When a user returns a bike, they get their $15 back.
Those numbers mean a lot of users, bicycles checked out, bicycles late being returned and other numbers to track.
“It was a million (Excel) cells long and really hard to keep track of,” Sperry said.
An AmeriCorps worker, Briana Bateman, suggested that Partners for Active Living work with a Spartanburg Community College class to come up with a better computer program to view bike rental usage and other information related to the program. Three groups of students in Matthew Alimagham's class were tasked with creating a software program to better serve Partners for Active Living. The team of Josh Blackwell, Jacob Collins and Willie Taylor created the winning project and their Access program went into use by Partners for Active Living about a month ago, Sperry said.
“It's so much more user-friendly,” Sperry said. “It's really simplified and we can search for the information we need quickly.”
The program allows Partners for Active Living employees to see all transactions in a user's account, rather than searching for each separate one through Excel, Blackwell said.
The program Blackwell, Collins and Taylor created also allows for users to submit applications electronically, rather than on paper. Collins came up with the forms for electronic sign-up and navigation and data conversion, Taylor worked on reports the program could generate and Blackwell contributed skills in data conversion and queries. A query is useful because it allows Sperry to see a user's transactions all in one place.
The ability to generate reports quickly for grant writing purposes is valuable to a nonprofit organization like Partners for Active Living, Sperry said, and she is thankful for the SCC students' work.
“For grants, you really have to have the data,” Sperry said. “It's really useful to be able to pull that information quickly. You've got to have the numbers to back up what you're doing in the nonprofit world.”
Sperry also believes having the software will also mean fewer data entry errors.
The trio of students worked on the program for at least 200 hours outside the classroom. They have been available to Partners for Active Living to troubleshoot the program and answer questions.
“They've gone above and beyond,” Sperry said.
The students say they enjoyed the collaboration and problem solving of the project.
“It was enjoyable because we're all friends outside of class,” Taylor said. “We think alike.”
Collins said it felt good to work on a project that wasn't driven by money or profit.
“It was really nice to give back to the community,” he said. “What these guys (Partners for Active Living) are doing is fantastic.”
For more about the Hub Cycle program, visit www.active-living.org/borrowing-bicycles.
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