Take the Stairs University

The Department of Information Technology is proud to announce the release of the 2017 Take the Stairs campaign, in conjunction with the EcoOpportunity team. This marks the 8th year for the competition. Over that time, the system has gone through multiple design and functionality changes while increasing user base each year. We are confident this is our best system yet. Of note:

  1. The Campaign is now Harvard-wide!
  2. Design is refreshed and more interactive
  3. The system is now on WordPress in the cloud

University-wide Campaign

The biggest change for this year is our user-base. In the past, the campaign was limited to the Longwood Campus. Due to high-demand, we have elected to open registration to anyone in the Harvard community. We are excited by the opportunity to not only share our work with the rest of Harvard, but help raise physical activity levels and energy savings.

New Design

A big change from last year is our new design. Some of our users will remember previous versions of this design from the past. But last year, due to the desire to expand our user-base and work with Harvard Key, we had to streamline the interface. This year we have integrated the more friendly design that includes a number of great features:

  • Shows status of your team on graphical representation of the mountain
  • Easy to find team pins (they bounce!)
  • The interface changes based on the current weather conditions in Boston. Now powered by DarkSky!
  • Improved team management

The primary developer on the UX and programming is our own David Marshall (a former winner of the Take the Stairs campaign!)`. He has really flexed his creativity in this project. The majority of the design, imagery, and programming is his doing. We’re very proud of where he’s taken the application thus far and excited to see other ideas he has for future campaigns.


It is no secret that our team loves WordPress. We use it for almost everything we do beyond a select group of custom applications. Take the Stairs has been implemented as our newest WordPress plugin.

Beyond the opportunity to improve functionality and seamlessly integrate into our website, moving to WordPress also allows us to take advantage of our substantial infrastructure on Amazon Web Services. We use services like load balancing, auto-scaling, EC2, S3, Elasticache, and RDS in harmony to create a robust and highly-available website. We are confident that this sets us up to handle any increase in demand from our expansion to the rest of the University.

Good Luck to All 2017 Participants

Last year we had 121 teams (570 participants) climbing over 175,000 combined flights of stairs. Considering the expansion to the rest of the University, we are anticipating participation to expand by 500%. We are excited to see the program gain so much participation and hopeful we’ll beat those estimates. Best of luck to everyone that joins in this fantastic initiative. See you on the stairs!