Dash-ing Into a New Era of THON

Photo from dash.thon.org

As Penn State students, we all know about THON. We know that it’s 46 hours long, we know that there are dancers and committees and committee members, we know that it seeps into almost every club and organization on campus. We know that it’s the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raising millions of dollars each year to help in the fight against pediatric cancer. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that copious amounts of work by thousands of Penn State students are required for THON to happen.

Though there is a multitude of outlets for students to get involved in THON, some of these outlets are more internal to the program and deal hands-on with the way it runs. For instance, there are technological systems required to organize logistics such as floor passes, work shifts and much more. Students are assigned to design and implement these systems, and this is a significant undertaking for THON 2018 in particular because of the introduction of the new Dash website (short for THON Weekend Dashboard).

Dan Herlihy, a sophomore Computer Science and SRA double major, is a Technology Captain for THON 2018 and one of the developers for Dash. He explains that the original PASS System used by previous THONs was designed as a way to get rid of the physical line to get on the floor, paper pass lists and keep track of who was on the floor at any given time. The system continued to expand year after year but at its core, it was the same code that was just built to keep track of who was on the floor; this makes it more difficult for each successive year of Technology Captains to customize it and add new features.

For this reason, Dan says that the 2018 Technology Captains decided it was worth starting from scratch and redesigning the entire system. The PASS System was abandoned and Dash was created from the ground up as a new code that could be easily expanded and improved in the coming years. According to Dan, Dash encompasses all of the functionality of the old system, but it doesn’t contain any of the underlying code and avoids many of the limitations of the old system.

The new Dash website manages a large variety of tasks, including floor access, building access, Dancer Support Tickets, Committee shifts and captain sleep shifts, just to name a few.

“I expect that Dash is actually just getting started in the benefits it can provide to THON,” Dan says. “Since it can be easily improved, it will hopefully speed up development time dramatically and will lead to even more exciting features to help THON move forward down the line.”

Though the creation of the new code for Dash was hard work, Dan says that the team of extremely dedicated Dash developers eventually worked through the obstacles put forth by the old system and were able to produce a robust website.

“Obviously I’m extremely excited and also a little nervous to see Dash used during THON weekend,” Dan says. “But mostly I can’t wait to be on the floor and just experience as much as I can, from the dancers to the kids running around with water guns and everything else that makes THON Weekends so special.”


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