EWB Challenge

In 2013 Engineers Without Borders came to me with a new project that would service hundreds of heavily engaged engineering students across Australia and the UK. Using Drupal and the Gumby framework, I kept the project on schedule, on budget and drama free. In 2014, after a short sprint, we added discussion board functionality to the site using advanced forum and, within hours of going live, students began signing up and posting on the forums. Today hundreds of users log-in daily and receive notifications on activity in the forums and on the site.
Roles: 
  • Drupal development
  • Design
Challenges: 
  • Integrating Picasa galleries on challenge pages

The gumby look

EWB Challenge sub page
Because of the projects tight deadlines and our commitment to an agile, ever evolving workflow we decided not to hire a designer and instead embraced the Gumby framework to provide the front end look and feel for the site. The decision paid off immensely and, by serving lots of photos on the site, we managed to move past most of the typical sterility of front-end framework based designs. You can check out Gumby Framework at http://gumbyframework.com/ and try it out for yourself.

Drupal books - and the editor experience

The editor experience
As a lightweight, powerful and flexible alternative to using Field Collections, the Drupal core book module served as a great way of creating hierarchical content within challenges on the site. On it's own, the editor experience for books is complicated and confusing so several tweaks were done to make the process seamless. Firstly creating a new challenge on the site automatically creates a book - so no need for publishing options configuration. Secondly the book configuration for subpages was moved to a prominent position at the top of the node form as shown in the screenshot.

Easy Picasa integration

Engineers Without Borders maintains a vast library of photos within Google Picasa taken by their employees on site across the world. To reduce duplication and bandwidth issues, Picasa albums needed to be integrated on a per-page basis in the simplest manner possible. A module was written that directly connects to Picasa's API and pulls in all albums from the Engineers Without Borders library and presents them in a select list box on the node edit form for challenge pages. Sweet and simple.

Lively student discussions

In 2014 we added a discussion board to give students partaking in challenges the ability to ask questions and share knowledge with each other about various engineering topics within each challenge. On it's first day of launch we had a large uptake in new users and questions being posted almost immediately. The integration of the discussion boards within the challenge home page proved vital in proactively encouraging students to post and respond to questions. We're still working on improving and extending the forum functionality one week at a time.

Scalability and reliability without the Drama - Pantheon to the rescue

This was the first project I deployed on Pantheon and it definitely won't be the last. Not having to worry about managing an AWS or VPS instance and setting up multiple staging and development environments saved so much project time that the entire year of Pantheon hosting was easily covered. We're confident that if the site grows we can scale up as necessary and there have been no performance complaints so far (a rarity for Drupal projects). EWB also have a secondary point of contact if they have site issues that are Drupal related which is a huge bonus. Pantheon helps us maintain daily backup routines and a strong, best practice development pipeline.