Punky GPS Gets The Steam Built Up For Geocaching

While getting geared up for geocaching [Folkert van Heusden] decided he didn’t want to get one of those run of the mill GPS modules, and being inspired by steam punk set out and made his own.

Starting with an antique wooden box, and adding an Arduino, GPS module, and LiPo battery to make the brains. The user interface consists of good ‘ole toggle switches and a pair of quad seven segment displays to enter, and check longitude and latitude.

To top off the retro vibe of the machine two analog current meters were repurposed to indicate not only direction, but also distance, which we think is pretty spiffy. Everything was placed in a laser cut wooden control panel, which lend to the old-time feel of the entire project.

Quite a bit of wire and a few sticks of hot glue later and [Folkert] is off and ready for an adventure!

15 thoughts on “Punky GPS Gets The Steam Built Up For Geocaching

  1. This is pretty cool. I like the idea of making a geocache even harder to find via analog gauges. What I don’t like is the wiring, points for asthetics, minuses for having a rats nest of spaghetti

    1. This seems to be a bit of a trend now.

      Solderless connections inside making it look like a rats nest, sort of like what used to be called ‘Proof of Concept’.

      After that they work on the external appearance but leave the internals as they were. Then it’s called finished.

      The ‘level up’ seems to be to put all the ‘modules’ together on a piece of strip board or even a home made PCB but they are still using complete modules.

      This actually makes a lot of sense now because the parts are so small that you need a breakout even for mounting to a PCB because you can’t get a home made PCB (single sided) to work with the discrete components.

      This project is a little different in that it uses old analog components. These old analog components can’t be put on a PCB so there is going to be a number of wires anyway.

      So while the may be a little room for improvement with this project, I think that not much more than some cable (zip) ties can be added. You can’t really reduce the number of wires.

      Retro electronics was like that – looms of wires all laced together.

  2. Oh yeah; I’m sure the number of wires returning between the hinged part of the enclosure wouldn’t be reduced if any, looms are nice, and really this unit is probably only going to be opened infrequently at best. If I was producing the circuit for work point to point like this, it would just bug me to leave everything so unstructured

  3. dude, you GLUED the perf boards down to the wood? oh no. say it isn’t so!

    here’s a hint for next time. buy some metal standoffs (I use 4-40 threaded hex standoffs). get some screws that fit thru your pcb or perf bd holes and go less than halfway thru the hex standoffs.

    now, here’s where you’ll like the next part – you THEN get to have all the fun with hotmelt glue you want. only, dab some on the 4 open ends of the standoffs (ie, you mount 4 standoffs to the board and secure them tightly) and quickly press it onto your wood baseboard. takes 10 seconds and then its safe to release pressure.

    there, you have not crushed the crap out of your wires and board, its repairable (you can leave the stanoffs glued down and just undo the 4 top screws). you can rip off the standoffs if you need to move things (which happens a lot during early proto phases; sure does with me) and after cleaning out a bit of the bottom glue, the standoffs are ready for re-use. the aluminum standoffs hold well enough but are not permanent and so its good for a POC. would never ship anything that way, but for a one-off, its ok as long as you are careful and don’t let the boards come loose. I’ve been able to keep one-off projects in that state for a few years and have taken them to shows/demos (not showing the insides, of course, lol).

    standoffs. learn about them. use them! and hotmelt and still be your friend ;)

  4. So I pulled the GPS front end out of a device with a defective touch screen…
    So now, I hope to find a datasheet on the module to know how to hook it up.
    Would a Trinket Pro be able to handle the data?

    1. Yes a Trinket should be fine. Any micro should be ok as long as the voltage is the same (ie 3v3 or 5v).

      Most of these GPS units are much the same. The link to it will either be USB (less often) TTL serial (most common) or RS232 serial (uncommon).

      They will usually have a number of supported protocols but for each protocol any device is like the next so once you have chosen a protocol that the device supports then just about any library will work.

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