Culture + VIA Events

The Great VIA Speling Bee


Nick Wunderlin
Nick Wunderlin

on 1/31/2020

Last month, 24 contestants took turns stepping up to a microphone to give their best shot at spelling their given words. Over the next hour or so, these contestants, along with VIA Studio staff and onlookers, took in a unique competition that felt both new and familiar. Ultimately Louisville Public Media‘s Tara Anderson won the competition and was awarded a shiny first-place medal. Sound intriguing? Well, you have two more opportunities to compete…

In case you have missed out! Over the past few months we have hosted our Great VIA Speling Bee series, with proceeds benefiting Kentucky Refugee Ministries. The first Speling Bee was put on as part of AIGA Louisville’s Design Week in September and was a great success for VIA, AIGA and the contestants! Considering the fun the VIA team had hosting, as well as the fun the participants had, we decided to extend the event’s run to cover the 2019-2020 school year.

As the first event was being planned, we were surprised to learn the role Louisville played in establishing a national spelling bee, which would later become the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The first National Spelling Bee was put on by The Courier-Journal as a promotional event, as the paper competed against a rival. Local boy, Frank Neuhauser, aged 11, won this first event in Washington D.C. after correctly spelling “gladiolus” in 1925.

The Great VIA Speling Bee events however, have some adult twists to the classic spelling bee structure. Guests can enjoy a bar serving cocktails, beer and wine. During the competition, light heckling is also encouraged. Additionally, competitors get to pick the category of their words between grade ranked traditional words and terms relating to each event’s overall theme.

Determining themes and developing assets for the events has allowed VIA to flex our creative muscles. Each event has a unique theme which is reflected in onsite decorations, promotional posters, and emails.

In addition to creative opportunities, the Great VIA Speling Bee gave our strategy and development teams the challenge of developing a scoreboard for the competition. The first bee used a scoreboard system built within Google Data Studio. This system had its limitations though, so a new custom system was developed. Utilizing a new web technology called “web sockets” VIA’s development team built a scoreboard that could stream data changes from an admin panel to the actual scoreboard that the contestants and audience see. Every action in the admin panel updates the database and then sends that updated response to the scoreboard, where it then takes an appropriate action with the data change. It works similar to a chat room, but instead of two users chatting, it’s the admin panel and the scoreboard screen. Resulting in a scoreboard that makes changes in real-time as contestants are eliminated or progress in the competition.

If you have missed out on our recent spelling bees you have two more opportunities to join in on the fun. VIA Studio will be hosting a Valentine’s Day themed bee on February 20th before the season finale on March 19th. So come out, contribute to Louisville’s spelling bee history, and help out Kentucky Refugee Ministries. There just might be a shiny first place medal in it for you!

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