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The next ARDF season is almost here. So what's new? A course timing system! We started serious work on it last December after the fall ARDF meets were over. We didn't plan on taking on such a large project. It was just a time to play around. But then we made such great progress in such a short amount of time. It was amazing. And we thought, maybe we can make it happen for the spring 2018 season. I'm not sure we'll have it ready for the first school ARDF meet. Maybe.
Fig. 1. The fox box. That large blue Adafruit board is the RFID reader/writer. Just place your RFID card on it and wait for the beep.
We have a master box. We only need one of those. We have a partially built fox box (version 1). It still needs the battery pack to be secured in the bottom. We will need six of the fox boxes. We have three OSH Park PCBs on order for version 2. They should arrive around March 11. When they are built, we'll order three more. The first school ARDF meet is on April 8. Hum.... There are all the schools to contact, and the ARDF portion of the web site to get ready again, and the receivers and transmitters to all be checked, and a bunch of other stuff. It probably won't happen by April 8. Maybe by the next event.
I'm starting a web page to describe the course timing system: CTS. But, in brief, here's kind-of how it works. There is a "fox box" at each control flag. The students go out with an RFID card. When they find the control, they place the RFID card on the fox box. It writes the time and control number on the card, and beeps. And that's it; they're off to the next control. When they're done, they place their RFID card on the master box at the start/finish area. It downloads all the information and displays it on an LCD.
There are several things I really like about this system. One is that the information is stored in the master on an SD card. The information on the SD card is in plain text. The card can be pulled from the master and plugged right into any computer. No need for special software. The whole system isn't less expensive than commercial systems available to purchase. But those system require each participant to have some kind of a stick or something that is quite expensive. The ones we use in our orienteering meets cost about 37 USD. For our school events, that just wasn't going to happen. But the RFID cards are only 2.50 USD each! Finally, we've been looking for a while for an open source course timing system and haven't found one that we've been happy with. So here is our contribution. All the schematics and layouts will be available. Check out the CTS page for the information we have so far. Happy building!
Fig. 2. The master box. Woaw--that LCD is huge! It will be used outside, some times in the sun, so the text needs to be easy to see. But it takes up so much space. Maybe we'll try a smaller OLED display in the next version.
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