This past weekend, Todd Anglin, Gabe Sumner, Joshua Holt, Matthew Shoemate (my brother), and myself headed up to Dallas, TX to participate in the We Are Microsoft Charity Challenge Weekend. We Are Microsoft is a three day event that pairs development teams with different charities to develop applications for those charities. These application typically come in the form of new websites, modules for existing websites, etc. The charity we got paired with was We Help Ourselves.

We Help Ourselves is a charity organized a run by a wonderful group of people, including, in particular, Mike Gelhausen and Mary Elizabeth Parra. The goal of We Help Ourselves is to educate children and teenagers about protecting themselves in all kinds of potentially dangerous situations. Mike and Mary Elizabeth spent a lot of time with us over the weekend helping us to plan out the design for their new website. We greatly appreciated their dedication and support throughout the whole process. They were truly a pleasure to work with.

Design in hand, all five of us spent pretty much the entire weekend in front of our laptop computers. For Matt and I, this was our first real experience using Sitefinity, ASP.NET, and the RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX. I typically focus on WinForms related technologies as you may have noticed, and Matt focuses on those as well, along with .NET Compact Framework Mobile development.

I have to say, Sitefinity was a real pleasure to work with. Starting with it as the base of our website really cut out a lot of the legwork that would be involved in creating a site from scratch. Its drag and drop style system of creating pages and content for those pages just made sense. I feel comfortable knowing that when we pass the website on to We Help Ourselves for them to maintain, they will be able to do so easily.

Since Sitefinity is built on ASP.NET, it is very easy to extend in that you can easily write new modules for it using Visual Studio. One of the requirements in our design was to have a system that would allow our charity to display training events on their website and allow people to sign up for them. This requirement was tasked to me, and I enjoyed spending the majority of the weekend working to bring it to life.

My Sitefinity module makes use of OpenAccess ORM to store and retrieve training event information to and from the database. This information is easily maintained and viewed in the backend of Sitefinity through the use of an ASP.NET AJAX based RadGrid. On the front end, I set up a way for these events to be displayed to users of the website. Users can now click a link to register for training and the form data they fill out is stored in the database for viewing in the backend of Sitefinity. As an added bonus, email notifications are also sent to the user and the people who need to know that someone registered.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Thanks to everyone that organized and/or participated in the event. We  enjoyed helping out the wonderful people at We Help Ourselves and we hope they enjoy their new website!

A Few Links:
We Are Microsoft
We Help Ourselves (Currently the old website, we hope to have their new website up by this weekend)


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