When we received the green light from our state and local government to open our summer camp for the 2020 season, we knew there would be changes, challenges, and opportunities ahead. We anticipated many of these challenges for months—reducing the number of children in a cohort, increasing time outdoors, and increased sanitization procedures.
We expected to screen campers and staff for Covid-19 symptoms and exposure, but we didn’t know how. When under pressure, though, we do our best work—and quickly. Between the time I was approached by my boss with an idea for a screening system until we had a final product was a matter of mere hours thanks to a host of online tools.
The system is quite simple from the perspective of a parent. First, a parent fills out a simple form on our website, asking them the name of their camper(s) and a few yes or no questions about symptoms and exposure. Then, the parent receives a QR code via text message to their phone. When the parent arrives at our campus to drop off their child, they simply roll down their window and a staff member scans their QR code, granting the campers access to camp.
Behind the scenes, we have several online services doing the magic. Our form is powered by Typeform. It uses logic jumps to ask parents the most relevant questions and provide them real time information about their status. Next, Zapier takes the results from the form and composes a text message to the parent. It generates a QR code using a free QR API and attaches it as an MMS message to the parents. We then use Twilio to send the text from a local number to our parents.
This system is great for generating the QR codes and disseminating them. We then ran into a new challenge – how could we scan and record the data in a reliable, efficient way? Traditional QR code scanning apps provide data quickly, but they usually don’t store them anywhere other than on the local device. More complex apps require additional hardware or have exorbitant setup fees or monthly maintenance fees.
Then, we found Scan to Google Sheets, an app that answered all of our concerns. In under five minutes, we created a Google Sheet and were able to scan QR codes directly into the database. We then installed the app on several iPads and phones, and next thing we knew, we were scanning nearly 300 codes per day at four drop off points. The developer even responded to our technical issues in less than a day, helping us troubleshoot minor issues as they occurred.
Thanks to all of these amazing services, we brought our system from zero up to full scale in just a day, and we can now safely welcome families and staff to our campus, providing much needed childcare and relief to parents, and providing campers with the fun, excitement, and much needed socializing they’ve been missing for months.