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Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Wireless Voting For Students?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the maybe-trebek-can-hook-you-up dept.

Education 167

RabidRabbit23 writes "I volunteer for a non-profit that organizes Model UN conferences for high school students. We need a quick and low cost way to record votes done by the students in large committees. There will be two or three committees with about 200 students in each. We need to be able to record yes, no or abstention votes and must be able to identify each student's vote. We looked into radio response clickers, but it is very expensive to buy 400-600 of them. They cost about $40 at university bookstores, which is way out of our budget, but we don't know what kind of discount we could get by buying directly from the manufacturer. We do have wireless internet but we do not have enough bandwidth to support everyone using a laptop. Does the Slashdot community have any suggestions for a better way to record the students' votes?"

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Vote by SMS? (5, Insightful)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536502)

1. Assuming most of the kids have cell phones, you can set up a free Google Voice account and receive votes by SMS that way.

If you set up specific strings for YES and NO (like 123 for yes and 456 for no), you can then search for that string in the results. The number of results you get is the number of votes. And if the votes are sent within a small enough timeframe, Google Voice will cluster multiple messages from the same sender into a single conversation (so people can't vote twice). If that's not enough for you, you can screenscrape the results and do a more precise count or go with some other sort of SMS system.

But basically, if it has to be electronic and real-time, you're more likely to find cell phones on them than anything else.

2. If it doesn't have to be so fancy, what's wrong with just having them raise their hands and counting them?

3. Or maybe handing out very simple scantrons and borrowing a scantron scanner for your sessions?

4. Or you could buy cheap laser pointers for everyone and have them point at two different lux meters for yes or no.

Re:Vote by SMS? (0, Troll)

viablos (2018696) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536518)

Why use any commercial solution at all? You're in a school after all. Make your students create simple buttons on your electrics class. You can just transfer the clicks via wire. Then make your programming class code the back-end system for a computer. Microsoft offers Visual Studio Express [] to students for free and you can easily get a cheap license to your school by calling Microsoft's sales team. At the same time your students will get real world experience and get to know the best programming tools used in the industry.

Re:Vote by SMS? (3, Insightful)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536600)

Transfer clicks via... four to six hundred wires?

Re:Vote by SMS? (-1, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit419 (2018878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536618)

need wireless solution...

use wires.

you're an idiot.

slashdot = stagnated.

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536900)

need wireless solution...

use wires.

you're an idiot.

The original question didn't specify that the solution had to be wireless. They were looking into wireless solutions but frankly it seems unlikely they'll be able to do wireless and meet their main requirements:

"We need a quick and low cost way to record votes done by the students in large committees."

If wireless isn't a strict requirement, a wired solution would be much easier to implement affordably.

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536974)

Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Wireless Voting For Students?

read much?

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

Auroch (1403671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537148)

Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Wireless Voting For Students?

read much?

You've got high expectations. Are you new here?

Re:Vote by SMS? (1, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit419 (2018878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537196)

you've got low expectations... are you the one that stagnated this internet web site chatroom message baord?

you're an ignorant hypocrite.

Re:Vote by SMS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537430)

People get low expectations by being around you. You are a weak fool.

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

MichaelKristopeit400 (1972448) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537508)

what "people"?

you are NOTHING.

ur mum's face are a weak fool.

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

Re:Vote by SMS? (2)

Auroch (1403671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537610)

lol Hey man, at least use the same account to reply :P

Re:Vote by SMS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537622)

ur mum's face are a weak fool.

Come back when you turn 8. Maybe your balls will have dropped by then.

Re:Vote by SMS? (0)

MichaelKristopeit419 (2018878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537096)

the 3rd word in the question was "wireless".

you're an idiot.

Re:Vote by SMS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537524)

That is a headline not a question. Or maybe you no read so good?

Re:Vote by SMS? (4, Funny)

juancn (596002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536708)

Why use any commercial solution at all? You're in a school after all. Make your students create simple buttons on your electrics class. You can just transfer the clicks via wire. Then make your programming class code the back-end system for a computer. Microsoft offers Visual Studio Express [] to students for free and you can easily get a cheap license to your school by calling Microsoft's sales team. At the same time your students will get real world experience and get to know the best programming tools used in the industry.

Come on, you're a Microsoft sales rep., aren't you?

Re:Vote by SMS? (2)

blacklint (985235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536856)

Did you not even make it past the first sentence? "I volunteer for a non-profit that organizes Model UN conferences for high school students" means they don't work for a high school, not that most any high schools would have an "electrics" class anyways, or that your suggestion made any sense at all.

The counting portion of the problem is by far the easiest.

Re:Vote by SMS? (5, Insightful)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536886)

Then make your programming class code the back-end system for a computer.

Letting the programming class count all the votes might be just as good as letting the programming class cast all the votes.

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

CowardWithAName (679157) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536688)

#1, #2, and #3 seem to answer the request nicely, but #4 doesn't meet the "must be able to identify each student's vote" requirement.

Re:Vote by SMS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536770)

1 requires every single student to have a cell phone, can't be guaranteed
2 is simply not reasonable for 400 people and basically ignores the question
3 also ignores the question, and requires borrowing a scantron machine from an unnamed party that may or may not exist

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537006)

1 - You can always have a few responses entered manually or even have a few loaner cell phones/laptops. Even if you had to buy, say, 50 cell phones at $10-$20 each prepaid, it'd be cheaper than 600 clickers.

2. How does it ignore the question? And in a student environment, labor is cheap. 400 hands could be sub-divided between a few organizers and counted quickly and inexpensively.

3. It's a school. A scantron machine is not guaranteed, but not out of the question either. People would write their names on the ballots (or be pre-assigned ballots).

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

CowardWithAName (679157) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537602)

Okay, sorry. Let me rephrase:

I'll let someone else address #1, #2, and #3, but #4 doesn't meet the "must be able to identify each student's vote" requirement. Better? :)

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536740)

#4) break out that portable C02 laser you've got and BAM! landslide victory! ...and no more meter.

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536808)

SMS, my boss just came back from a technology conference and was talking about how during lectures some speakers had people vote from mobile devices by sending texts.

Re:Vote by SMS? (3, Informative)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536870)

There's a free setup you can use that does just that: SMS Poll []

Re:Vote by SMS? (2)

arshadk (1928690) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536940)

Same idea, different pricing plan:
Poll Everywhere []

Polls for up to 30 votes are free, after that you've gotta pay.

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536936)

2. If it doesn't have to be so fancy, what's wrong with just having them raise their hands and counting them?

Or, if you want a permanent identifiable record, take a photograph as people have their hands raised during each phase (yes, no, abstain). Use more than one camera from different angles to make sure you don't have occlusion problems. Have volunteers count hands live (each volunteer covering one Nth of the committee) to get real-time values that are approximate and sufficient for votes with more than, say 10 points difference; for close votes, use the photographic record.

While the cell phone idea sounds good, and likely everyone will own one, the likelihood that (a) everyone will have brought theirs, (b) they won't be busy doing something else with it, (c) they remembered to charge it so the battery doesn't die before the vote, (d) they send their SMS to the correct number, (e) they don't blow the encoding, no matter how simple, (f) their provider accounts are in good standing / topped up, (g) the local cell tower can handle the traffic from so many devices simultaneously, and (h) the SMS actually get delivered in a timely fashion, etc., is not 100%.

Here's another idea: You want something dead simple and fast. Print lists of the delegates with three checkboxes (yes, no, abstain) and have 10 volunteers go and poll each delegate in person, ticking the appropriate box. Each volunteer tallies his section and the chairman adds up the reports for the final vote. Each vote will take perhaps 5 minutes or so. The key with this approach is that you need LOTS of vote recording volunteers.

Cool Factor (1)

Yoik (955095) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537192)

Electronic voting could be worthwhile for the cool factor, but offers little improvement over well established methods. The standard is a hierarchy that trades time against obviousness of the result.

1). Voice vote, good if result is very disproportionate. Instant
2) Raised hands (usually combined with voice) instant, or at least quick, to 60-40 or so.
3) a "division of the house" for those very close votes, or if someone really wants a record of who voted how.

The division, if needed, can be accomplished by people physically moving. It turns out to rarely be needed.

The system is at least 300 years old, but it still works. See Roberts Rules of Order.

Re:Cool Factor (1)

RabidRabbit23 (1576305) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537422)

We use a modified version of Roberts Rules in Model UN already. Currently what we do is every delegate in the committee has a card stock placard with their county's name printed on it. For procedural votes we just call for yes, no and abstention votes and count up the votes as best we can. Every delegate is required to vote on procedural matters, but there is no way to enforce this unless a very obvious large number of students don't vote. When someone calls for a roll call vote on substantive matters, like passing a resolution, we must record each delegate's vote. There is one round where we go through the list and call everyone's name, and a second round to go back and get the votes from anyone who passed on the first round. This takes a very long time with 200 votes to record.

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

RabidRabbit23 (1576305) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537336)

I'm the original submitter. Suggestion 1 is excellent, thanks very much. I think I'll look into [] for counting the SMS messages. Also, just to clarify we have about $5,000 of budget so it would be no problem to get some cell phones or another solution for people who don't have them. As to your other suggestions, we must match the person to the vote so an anonymous system like counting hands or using a lux meter may not work. I think the scantron may be almost as slow as a normal roll call. Thanks for the great suggestions though!

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537532)

Cool! Let us know how it turns out.

One thing I'd definitely want to check out before you invest too much time into the system, though: What happens when 200 people in the same room sends text messages at the same time? Would some get delayed? Would some not get sent at all?

Re:Vote by SMS? (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537618)

The scantron idea could be quick if it was parallelized. The following are assuming a single scanner.

At one extreme, each student is filling out their own form, which must then be passed down the row and then scanned, presumably one at a time. Everyone votes in parallel, but you have to scan 200 forms serially.

At the other extreme, you have a single scantron which is passed around, where each student answered one "question" (always the same number to track who voted for what). You only have to scan 1 form but must wait for 200 people to vote serially.

However, if students were sitting in rows of tables, and you passed one scantron down each row, then scanned each form, you would only have to wait for say 15 votes then 14 scans, which is pretty quick.

Paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536544)

Have you consider some bits of paper. On each bit could go a cross or a tick or neither. You'd also need a cardboard box with a slot in the top.

Re:Paper (1)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536644)

I guess by "wireless" he means "paperless" too.

IR (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536558)

google around for arduino IR receiver. open source code to decode sony, philips rc5/6, nec codes. that's pretty much all of them.

then the trick is to also enable ir-send (same library) and build small arduino senders with an ir-blaster (ir led) and give each a unique code for the 2 or 3 buttons you give them.

consider IR instead of RF. very cheap and easy.

Re:IR (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536620)

They need a unique code for each sender too, from the requirement "identify each student's vote". (Also necessary to detect multiple votes by same person.)

Re:IR (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536758)

1. Arduino-based IR senders are more than the $40 each the OP says is too expensive.

2. If you used cheap TV remotes, how do you uniquely identify each student?

3. 200+ students at once. That much IR on the TV remote wavelengths will interfere with each other so that nobody's signal gets through. Wireless vote-clickers are actually pretty complicated systems. Not only do they have to avoid interference, the system has to assure that every clicker sent a response (even if it was no-button-clicked).

Re:IR (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537480)

they are mere dollars. or, they can be build for such. where do you get your prices from? I develop (actively) for arduino and build my own boards. rounded to the dollar:; chip is $5, ir led is $1, tactile buttons all total $1, resonator $1, filter cap, $1. does not need a case, not really. regulator $1 to bring 9v down to 5v. its not very much at single unit prices; at bulk made in china (being made for you) I'd be surprised if it was over $10. arduino chip would have to be real but all other parts can be 'fakes'. if you are good, you can use a tiny-avr and save more on space and cost.

as for unique codes, you have a goddamned longword, dude! a long word. 4 byte long word integer. is THAT not enough for you?? you make up codes and use a lookup table on the receive side.

this is a college 101 level project at best. a weekend for those who are current in emb-processors.

Re:IR (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537024)

Trying to make IR work with 399-599 competing signals sounds like a nightmare, and the range is likely to be too short for a room large enough for that many students.

SMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536564)

I'd say SMS > Google Voice > Python.

Low-tech, but effective (1)

propjoe (2020634) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536586)

As a former MUN-er myself, I know that no matter what you try, someone is going to slow it down by either not paying attention or for some inexplicable reason not having access to the voting mechanism. Having a web app would be ideal, since these students (should) all have laptops, but not only did you rule that out, there's always one or two students who don't have a computer. I would just instruct the committee chairs to disallow roll-call votes except on major issues. Voting by raised hands is about as fast as you're going to get under these restrictions, and it's fair to all students.

Re:Low-tech, but effective (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536882)

This is why voting bodies specify quorum rules and time limits for voting. If someone doesn't want to participate actively, they can't slow it down or prevent it.

Of course, even with a quorum rule there are exceptions [] (thank goodness).

Honestly, I don't get why anyone in an educational setting isn't just counting raised hands...

Model UN (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536594)

A Model UN Club meeting is in progress at Springfield elementary.

Ok, delegates, you leave tomorrow for the statewide Model U.N., so this is out last chance to bone up. And bone we will!

All of the kids break into laughter, except Lisa.

(to Lisa) Lighten up, Lis.

(to Martin) Finland, let's see that naitve dance.

Martin starts dancing Lappish style.

Smile more. Work that pelvis. No, too much smile. Sit down. (to Milhouse) Poland! Tell us about your nation's achievements!

Well, uh, I heard they sent a rocket to the sun once... at night... And there was that submarine, with the screen doors...

No, no, no, no, no, young man, you need to do some SERIOUS boning!

This time only Lisa laughs.

Oh, grow up, Lis.

(to Bart) OK, Libya... exports!

Yes, sir, you American pig!

(chuckles) Nice touch.

Uh, ahem, let's see...

Bart shuffles his blank papers, pretending to find something.

The exports of Libya are numerous in amount. One thing they export is corn, or as the Indians call it, "maize". Another famous Indian was "Crazy Horse". In conclusion, Libya is a land of contrast. Thank you.

A commotion interrupts Skinner before he can comment on Bart's performance. Nelson, the Japanese delegate, pinches Wendell's nose with chopsticks.

Oww, I can't breath! Please stop him!

I'd like to, but I'm afraid he has diplomatic immunity.

Point of order, if we want to learn anything we must respec--

Point of odor, Lisa stinks.

All the kids laugh.

(to Bart) Hey. Leave her alone!

(to Sherri) You leave her alone!

All the kids start fighting with each other, with one exception. Ralph, the Canadian delegate, stands.

(singing) Oh, Canada!

Skinner bangs his shoe on the table.

Order, order! Do you kids wanna be like the real U.N., or do you just wanna squabble and waste time?

Re:Model UN (1)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536830)

The punchline is awesome!

Re:Model UN (1)

Peterus7 (607982) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537740)

Amazing, the Ralph bit at the end is hilarious.

Do it like the real UN (2)

Dishwasha (125561) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536608)

Make the students buy their votes. Soon after you should have enough money to by the clicker thingies.

Cheap, fast and traceable? (2)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536610)

You want cheap and you want to be able to identify each vote with a specific person?

Certainly doing something with computers is going to be expensive in some way. It is also going to take a long time because not everyone would have their own computer.

I'd suggest colored pieces of paper that are preprinted with a number. Red for no, green for yes, blue for abstention. Something simple like that. The pieces of paper could also be tagged for "Question 1", "Question 2", etc. Counting them wouldn't be that hard and they would be traceable - names could be written on the slips but even without that you would have the preprinted numbers. This would fall apart for blind students but would work for multiple languages.

Sure, you could have some fancy system but it is going to cost money. Potentially lots of money. Anything that would require queuing up would likely get unmanageable quickly with 200 students.

Re:Cheap, fast and traceable? (1)

Sad Loser (625938) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537456)

you don't want them voting on every crappy decision. there needs to be some personal disincentive to call a vote about stuff that doesn't matter. look at the mature democracies - they don't have crappy electronic votey things.

if there is a vote, they have to get up out of their seats and go somewhere

you could have a lobby that they have to go through a yes or no channel with a barcoded badge but better (and more geeky)- how about if they have an RFID badge each and then go and stand at the YES or NO end of the debating chamber ( where a sensor picks them up)

Arduino (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536628)

Use a multiplexed arduino. Simple, hugely cheap (about $25 for the arduino and you only need 1 and a multiplexer shield so perhaps $100 to $200 in parts IN TOTAL.

Re:Arduino (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536930)

You're not doing anything electronic for 200 people for $200, unless you make one and pass it around, which will take hours.

Mag strip cards. Or even Barcodes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536646)

Make one for yes and one for no along with their name. They swipe the cards and you record the answer.

Don't schools use these for ID's anyway?

use barcodes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536662)

try has some software which you can use to scan in votes.

The Clusterfuck phenomenon (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536672)

The problem with doing this with wireless is the same problem we had with a wireless Point-of-System: when asked to vote, several hundred people will press the button simultaneously. That results in a shit storm of collisions for IR and for most wireless networks.

Re:The Clusterfuck phenomenon (1)

kriss (4837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536818)

This is actually not the case with dedicated solutions for this sort of thing (yes, they exist. No, they're not cheap), commonly used for annual general meetings by large corporate entities. A normal wireless network will hold up rather nicely as long as a) the AP's cope with the # of connected clients and b) whatever service you're pushing data to isn't too chatty.

Re:The Clusterfuck phenomenon (2)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537022)

Yeah; you don't really need a lot of wireless bandwidth for a dinky little yes/no vote. Your users aren't doing anything serious like streaming video. You don't need to let them onto the Internet at large. So 54 Mbps can go a long way. You just need a couple of real enterprise-grade APs that won't fall over when they have more than ten people connected to them. If instantaneous bandwidth really is still an issue, perhaps you can write a JavaScript web UI that introduces random delays (0-N seconds) before submitting?

Also, have you considered supplementing the wifi with Ethernet cables? It would help blunt the load somewhat. You can get basic 10/100 switches pretty cheap.

I would recommend a particular vendor's APs, since they're kinda designed for denser deployments, but I work for them, so I'll abstain from mentioning them by name here.

Re:The Clusterfuck phenomenon (1)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537496)

As bad as they say /. is getting lately, I find that most of us here won't intentionally say something unfair, whether it's a plug for our employers or a really stupid, unreasonable response. As little as that may seem to be, it's more than you usually get on the internet.

Why not just use paper??? (2, Insightful)

ckthorp (1255134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536682)

They could just use paper ballots like everyone else... You can count 200 ballots in a matter of minutes instead of training students on an electronic system that may or may not be flaky.

Re:Why not just use paper??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536732)

yeah but TFP was asking for something that's wireless... ... oh wait

Re:Why not just use paper??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537288)

Precisely. Paper balloting is a simple effective method. Pre-print ballot papers with
Paper number

With an advancing number stamp this ought to be even easier.

Pile and count ought to be dead easy, and can be done real time in front of the committee in session, or in a committee with scruitineers.

ODK + Fusion Tables (2)

Bamfarooni (147312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536686)

You can set up an ODK form (, kids vote with their smartphone (or computer), and all the results go into a Google Fusion Table (

Re:ODK + Fusion Tables (1)

Peterus7 (607982) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537748)

Not all kids have smartphones, plus, it might be hard to justify to an administrator why students should be taking their cell phones out during school time, even if it is probably the cheapest solution.

Depends on your use case. (1)

kriss (4837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536694)

It depends entirely on how many polls you need to perform in what time span. The way we do it (non-profit NGO) is by a simple web form - there's a number of terminals available for people who doesn't bring their own laptop/phone, and those who do bring their own, can use it. Performing a poll with 100 people takes ~2 minutes - but it'd depend on the number of people with their own equipment and the number of terminals at hand, naturally.

Avoid doing it by hand, if at all possible. Counting sucks and people are way, way more focused if they can get the outcome almost right away rather than after n minutes.

Re:Depends on your use case. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537188)

And many of the kids will have smart phones that can do it without a laptop. The comment in the article that "We do have wireless internet but we do not have enough bandwidth to support everyone using a laptop" doesn't make much sense. If you have a Wi-Fi access point in the room—even an old one—then you have a minimum of 11 Mbps shared. That's plenty of bandwidth for everyone to vote using a laptop.

Just grab a Wi-Fi hotspot, don't connect it to the "real" Internet, set it up to provide DHCP from a pool, and hook up the vote counting server to its wired connection. Or, for that matter, if you have 802.11g or faster, go ahead and connect it to the real Internet. Your upstream won't be that fast anyway, and you'll be connecting to a local machine, so you're basically guaranteed enough bandwidth to that machine no matter what other people are doing on the network, almost without exception.

Admittedly, there's also the problem that some consumer Wi-Fi access points use crappy CPUs that just plain can't handle 400 clients doing much of anything. If you run into that problem, buy yourself a Cisco wireless router (NOT Linksys-by-Cisco), and that problem should go away. Either way, that's a one-time expense for hardware that can be used for other things when you're not using it for that.

Now if the issue is that not everybody has a laptop or a smart phone in their possession, that's a different issue, but bandwidth shouldn't be a problem.

ActivVotes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536696)

The school district I work for uses ActivVotes by Promethean. They work really well in a classroom environment (and it's made for just that).

Cost - Oy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536760)

They cost about $40 at university bookstores,

Have you tried shopping around?

If the University bookstore is selling them for $40, you probably could get them for 29.99 or less somewhere else.

At least check Amazon.

University bookstores are just one big rip-off.

ETH Lecture Communicator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536828)

ETH Lecture Communicator is an open source student response system we experimented with a while back.

SMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536838)

You can use this program to receive SMS through a GSM/3G modem hooked up to your PC

Re:SMS (1)

Kosi (589267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537228)

Which would make sense if SMS was a free (as in beer) service for everyone, and everyone owned a device capable of sending SMS and carried it all the time.

Re:SMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537436)

That's true. I forgot you pay to receive SMS in the US. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536840)

There is a website that does just that if the student have texting ability. I checked it out for one of my classes. Very simple and straightforward. They give you a text address and generate a number for each response, so all you have to do it text a number to a number and you are done.

Use Low Tech (1)

Bucaro (758451) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536858)

Buy a large number of signs (laminated paper, plastic signs, small flags, paddles; may be single color or double faced, or similar). Have the vote taken by holding up the sign.Then have people count the votes in groups and report to a central person OR Take a picture with a digital camera. Load the picture into analysis software (I used to use a photoshop filter that counted the number of distinct dots in a color range in fluorescent microscopy, cant recall the name) and then you will have a definitive count.

Re:Use Low Tech (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536920)

Still doesn't record which way each student voted.

QR-codes? (1)

netsharc (195805) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536876)

If you have a good enough camera, you might be able to have each student hold up a paper with the QR-code of their member-ID + vote (so each person gets 3 pieces of paper: one for yes, no, and abstention, make sure the paper are labeled textually with the vote and member ID/field for the member to write down his name), and get someone to take a picture making sure all QR-codes are captured perfectly. But since the chances of the camera seeing all QR codes will probably be low, you need to distribute the task to several cameras. So e.g. you'd have 10 designated tables which you can call the voting station. 20 people each will lay the QR codes of their answers on the table, and one guy takes a picture. Make sure you also have a piece of paper with a QR code to identify which question is being voted on, as well as a textual description of the question. If the questions are to be determined later, than just a QR code of "Question no. 17". During the voting rounds, make sure that number (17) and the question associated with it is displayed on the overhead projector, so that the voters know what they are voting on.

OK, the next part would be collecting all the pictures from the cameras (human problem), and analyzing the pictures to verify that all members' votes have been recorded properly (software problem). I'd say use a good quality camera phone with WiFi (protect the network with a password) and software to upload (mail?) the pictures to a server.

Re:QR-codes? (1)

bragr (1612015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537278)

This is actually not a terrible idea, and with a few decent point and shoots, plus a little software to process the images it could work nicely.

I'd do it like this: a couple cameras (maybe 5? You'd need to do some experimentation) on tripods (aimed for good coverage) tethered to a computer (there are some good alternate firmwares for Canons that allow this on cheap cameras). When the vote comes up, a script tells each camera to snap 2 or 3 images (separated by a few seconds each). It would then process all the QR codes in each image into a table and merge all the tables together. Any missing or conflicting entries can then be manually resolved by consulting the photos. You could ring the QR codes with a color for each vote (y/n/a) to make this a very quick process. You could have your vote done in 30 seconds. It will take some money and doing, but cost a lot less than the $24000 clickers would cost you.

and the webs say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536878)

Google "SMS vote". numerous solutions available, some free

Re:and the webs say (2)

klubar (591384) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536952)

For about $65 you can get an SMS voting site; vote via SMS, Web, twitter... can limit to one vote per person and record (by phone #) who votes. Requires attendees to have SMS services... and for the 3 or 4 votes might cost some of them $1 or so for the SMS message. Easy, cheap, real-time reporting on web page or flash control.

We used : [] but there are lots of competitors with similar service.

Paper ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35536944)

Paper ballots. Seriously.

Having an audit trail is important in elections.

Why tech? (1)

Alanbly (1433229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536980)

Not to be a Luddite, but what's so wrong with voting on paper or via visual ballot (raising placards)? Yes wireless is sexy, but it's always going to be glitchy or expensive (especially if you factor in the cost of the time to set it up).

Turning Point (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35536990)

Turning Point [] is maybe your best choice. They may have been the one with the $40 clicker option, but they also have alternatives [] like iPhone/Blackberry/Android/laptop apps so students can respond that way. Bingo, no need for expensive clickers and you get the individual vote tally.

iButton (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537056)

I've used iButton key fobs for stuff before, and they worked pretty well. We basically had a number of kiosks spread across campus, and people could log in to each one to earn points. I guess you could equate it to an early semi-physical Foursquare.

Each key fob has a metal disc built in that has a unique serial number, like a MAC address. The fancy expensive ones can also run Java code and do other things you don't need. To vote, a student walks up to one of your voting machines and touches the fob to a reader (attached to a computer) labeled YES, NO, or ABSTAIN. The computer gets a message that device # [key fob's serial number] just touched, and the screen displays "Thanks for voting YES, Joe Schmoe from Model Denmark. Touch again to change your vote", or whatever interface you want.

The runtime setup difficulty is tying each student to a particular device serial number. That can be done with some simple interface in the morning: Grab a key fob, log it in, and type your name.

Your software would hook in with the One-Wire API, which works on every OS. It could be as simple as polling for a button touch, and then externally calling Curl to send a URL request with the serial number and vote type to your central voting web server.

about $1-2 per iButton key fob in bulk
about $5-15 per reader (3 readers per voting computer)

SMS Enabler (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537060)

Use 'SMS Enabler' program to receive SMS messages on a PC. It can write received messages to a text/CSV file in real-time or dispatch them to a web server.

Technology is not always the answer. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537072)

We need a quick and low cost way to record votes done by the students in large committees. There will be two or three committees with about 200 students in each.

Paper ballots have worked just fine years - why are they not suitable here?

GAE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537098)

1) Have the students write a registration application, subject setup, automatic expiration, voting application, and reporting application.
    I would make it a set of RESTful servlets on Google App Engine or something similiar is available on the Amazon Cloud that only accepts connections from certain ip's (white list)
2) Assign them a voting day and time of the week and an alternate time and let them vote over a week. Why do you really need real time voting?
You could even mail the information to them and they'd vote when it's convenient.
It doesn't have to be enforced you just need to break up the load somehow so it's evenly distributed.

The application doesn't have to be fancy for what you want. It will scale being as you are talking low volume it should be in the category of free.
If you want to scale it out really big you could charge a yearly fee and set the limit of money you'll pay for gae to scale.
Have each group have it's own application and just clone it per group.

Every student doesn't have to have computer but they should have access to one.

Easily doable for a student project for the development. You could even have a second student project to have them try to hack it before it goes live to do the security audit.

Voxeo (1)

Gripp (1969738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537150)

i'm sure the support staff at would be more than happy to provide a telephony solution for this; they live for this kind of thing. i would imagine you could even run it over a free developer account. worth checking out at least! they also run which could make it people only need to text.

Any electronic solution is expensive (1)

theBully (1056930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537162)

I had the same issue in a slightly different scenario. Subjects in a clinical trial needed to record the severity of their symptoms while in a large room for several hours. In my case we didn't need the answers on spot but needed a way to transfer them into a database. We did not have enough money to equip everyone with a laptop/handheld so we went for paper, scanner and image recognition. If you don't need the results of the vote instantly this turns out a fairly cheap solution. Image recognition works well enough when you need to only differentiate a filled circle or square from an empty one. Again, depending on your requirements manual verification of the collected data is advisable. Hope this helps.

Stick to paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537204)


Bandwidth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537210)

Little confused at why you state you don't have enough bandwidth..

I'm assuming all these student delegates have a laptop as you already looked at this solution and passed it off.
Just use the router to create a wireless intranet, and setup a machine to act as a server for the voting web application?

There really shouldn't be that much data flying through the ether for a voting application. I doubt that the router can't handle it, so long as you keep it a intranet. You'd need a larger subnet than your standard /24 but that shouldn't be too difficult to set up.

Email the answers? (1)

TastyCakes (917232) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537222)

I like the texting idea. On the same note, would all the students have laptops? If so, maybe you could just have them email their votes to specific questions to a specified address. Then you could use a python script or something to sort out what response came from who for which question.

Use a Microsoft Kinect (1)

John Bresnahan (638668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537250)

Point it at the assembled body, have them stand to vote "Yes" and write some software to recognize where each seat is located, whether there is a person in that location and whether that person is standing.

Ceiling-mounted mirrors and laser pointers (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537286)

Put a 90-degree-angle half-periscope above each table. To vote, shine the red, green, or abstention-colored laser pointer into the tube.

Rig the laser pointers so they are in a fixed position. Not only will this make voting easier but it will discourage abuse - with 200 kids you will have one smart-ass in the room.

Rig the tubes so the output points to a wall forming a line.

Count the dots of various colors after each vote.

Be prepared to change out broken laser pointers and those whose batteries get exhausted.

Upside: Students can construct and install the mirror system.

Downside: If you don't own the room, you may not be able to pull this off.

old school method? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537386)

can't beat the cost of paper and pen, and some old fashioned had counting..

Formtools and a Local Web Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537446)

You specified "do have wireless internet but we do not have enough bandwidth to support everyone using a laptop". Setup a local web server, use Formtools to create voting forms, and you're done. This does require a fair bit of technical aptitude though.

Students are inventive problem-solvers. And evil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537454)

If you did this in my High School in 1976, or in my son's High School today, you'd better have some amazing technology.

Because we lived for hacking the school, and my son and his friends aren't much different than we were.

If you use wifi, I predict goatse. I can tell you right off there are a dozen kids in every HS in my state that already have aircrack, kismet, WPA-cracker and airpwn loaded on their lappies.

If you use phones, I predict ballot stuffing.

Paper. It grows on trees. (1)

IcyWolfy (514669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537566)

We had a full model UN in high school. Since all the seating was assigned ahead of time; the vote-keeping was done entirely on pre-printed ballot sheets. basically in the format:

Sheet 1
Name: Y N A ...
Name: Y N A
Total: [blank] [blank] [blank]

And they were based on the seating at the university's lecture hall we used, they all listed countries in order as they were seated, starting with the centre.
You pass out the sheets to the centre people, and then they pass it along to the end; they're forwarded up;

At the front: Tallied per sheet;
the totals transferred to the log sheet
Sheet 1 :[blank] [blank] [blank] ...
Sheet X :[blank] [blank] [blank]
Totals :[blank] [blank] [blank]

And you had totals, with fairly rapid turn around and summations. Secret votes just had a stack of paper with "Country: ____ Y N A" and they were required to fill it out and put it into the box going around. to be condensed and summarized onto the above formattetd sheets at the front by the two lackies.

Junk character filter? Really? I wonder what the threshold is. Wow, this really makes it a bit difficult to nicely explain the formats, but then what can you really do about it. I wonder what the thresholds are.

Survey Monkey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537584)

Set up a survey with answers chosen from YES, NO, ABSTAIN

Your cheap solution (1)

elsJake (1129889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537598)

One high-res digital camera and
A4 papers printed with a large QR code (2d barcode) - unique id and answer number printed in human readable form as well.
Just pass out as many papers as there are answer options (2 , 3 ? ) to the students.
Use a canon 5d mark III or something that can record video as well and ask them to wave the cards around for 5 seconds or something , so you get everyone (in case one card is behind someone else's head).

Weigh it (1)

t551 (1403141) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537686)

Give each student a poker chip, and have them write their name on it. When it comes time to vote, have each student place their chip in a pile for yes, no, or abstention. Weight each pile, and you will know how many people voted for each.

Wireless Local Network (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537728)

You say you have wireless internet but not enough band width. Why have access to the internet?

Why not run a wireless connection to a LAN? That is, you don't have to support lots of people connecting to sites all over the world, but lots of people connecting to a local computer running a web server.

OK, I haven't thought deeply about this, but it seems like it would not take much bandwidth to connect to a single voting page.

Clickers or nothing. (2)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537816)

As someone who's used in-class polling systems quite a bit (I'm a college professor), there are only two solutions that will work. A dedicated "clicker" system (I recommend the ones by Turning Point [] ), or a non-technical solution. Paper ballots are obvious; the guy who suggested labeled poker chips had a good idea too.

If you try to muck around with laptops and cell phones and polling websites and custom software and/or hardware, you're going to spend your whole time doing tech support rather than model UN'ing.

Pick between low-tech or high-cost. If you try to go high-tech and low-cost, you will also get "doesn't work".

"We need" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35537824)

No you don't. You want. I did Model UN in High School-- at some of the larger conferences too. We survived without electronic voting. Focus on the politics. If you have money (or time to search for a free one) to throw away hire a professional diplomat to come in and give a talk. I *still* remember and occasionally talk about such speeches that I heard in High School. That will be far far more valuable to your students than an electronic voting solution that is likely to break at some point, waste a lot of time while you're trying to fix it, then force you to go with paper anyway.

If it's over anything important, make it secure (1)

thetartanavenger (1052920) | more than 3 years ago | (#35537914)

Using tech here might not be the best option but if you have a lot of items to vote over then it may be your only choice. However, if you do decide to use it for anything actually important then make sure it's secure. My university has been using clickers for years and they are so insecure it's not even funny. Twice now with different models (first ir then rf) myself and a friend have reverse engineered the protocol then created our own model that spits out as many votes by as many users as we wanted. We then *ahem* presented them to the lecturers as a proof of concept.

You can change the outcome to however you want, even subtly by distributing votes across all possible options with yours just in the lead. To make it more subtle you can listen in on other peoples votes as they are being made and then override them using the same id's. Heck, I know of some schools that use them for examinations allowing you can use groupthink to cheat (not 100% accurate for obvious reasons but not exactly a bad way to go..).

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