Saturday, 17 December 2011

QR code orienteering - a change from the norm?

Recently I have spent time at school trying to develop new ways for staff to build small amounts of outdoor education into their lessons. After drawing up an orienteering map for geography department, I started trying to come up with a way that I could update the concept of orienteering for the modern generation of tech savvy young people. The answer came to me when I was messing around with the bar code reader on my phone while waiting a criminally long amount of time for a shop assistant to perform a return on a christmas present Claire I had bought, but changed my mind on. You see some products have both a bar code (in the traditional sense), and a "QR code" For those of you that don't know, a QR code are those funny looking squares of dots (see left) that you may often see on products, business cards. Anyway a QR code can store a lot of data, from contact cards, lines of text, phone numbers, emails and more. There are a number of websites out there that can generate QR codes for you, the one I used was So how does this relate to orienteering? Simple;  the QR codes are laid out on the course according to the map. Each card is laminated and hung at each of the control points. The group then go out, scan the code at each point to receive the location of (or directions too) the next point. I should say that this system requires the group all having a bar code reader on their phone. The data enclosed with the QR code can be suited to the type of course, in the example below the
code includes a collection of text specifying a unique code to denote the group arriving at the point, directions to the next point (these can be as complicated as you want), and a clue to help. The good thing about these codes are you can easily build your own to various difficulty levels. Starting the group off could consist of a "start sheet" with a collection of QR codes leading to each point. Each group would scan a different code, meaning that they would start by going to a different point and would therefore not spend all the time following each other around!

QR codes can also be programmed to direct users to a map location based on a lat and long. As a more complicated exercise,the QR code could provide the group a location or grid reference that they then need to look up on a map (or GPS), to continue. The last thing a QR code can do, is (when scanned) create a text message that will be sent to a specific number. For example I could have a message saying "We are currently at XXX,XXX, please provide the location of the next point". This provides me with a groups location (as I would know who's number was who's), allowing me to track their progress.

This idea could be expanded to include things like treasure hunts, each QR code would reveal part of a puzzle, all the codes would then have to be collected to be able to solve the puzzle. This would be a fun activity for an outdoor centre group looking for a simple evening activity. The issue here would be the lack of smartphones for the group to use, easily solved by using a laptop or computer with a free downloadable barcode scanner for the web cam, the computer or laptop would then be left at a "base" where the group would come to, in order to decode their piece of the puzzle. Geocaching may also be an example activity to make use of QR codes.

The simplicity of these codes make them ideal for a multitude of applications in the off to bar code my gear :)

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