In February 2005 we were contacted by Philip O’Reilly, a coordinator for the Festival Of Science in Dublin. Philip wanted help in organising an event for the festival the following September that involved Geocaching. After a lot of hard work from members of the Geocaching Community, the event was a great success. The following piece was written by one of the BA Science volunteers.
GPS Treasure Hunt by Victoria Thompson
Adventurous members of Dublin’s public took part in a treasure hunt with a twist on Sunday afternoon as part of the annual BA Festival’s Science in the City programme. The event used the latest global positioning (GPS) equipment to track a trail around some of the city’s famous historical, cultural and scientific monuments.
There was a great sense of excitement as around forty intrepid explorers of all ages met up in the bustling Temple Bar square and split up in to teams of around five people.
Once in their groups, volunteer GPS experts showed the teams how to programme a waypoint (a set of co-ordinates) into the system. The teams set off around the city tracking a specific waypoint, and at each monument a clue was solved to unlock the next waypoint.
The trail led the teams around sites such as Dublin castle, Trinity College and St. Stephens Green admiring famous former Dublin residents such as the Sir Richard Griffiths, the ‘Father of Irish Geology’.
GPS systems work by receiving signals from satellites. Around 12-18 positioning satellites have been put up by the military and around 3-4 are available for public use.
With a clear view of the sky, a signal is beamed down to a mobile phone-sized device. Once the waypoint is programmed into the system, the direction of that co-ordinate is displayed on a compass on the screen of the device. Other information such as the distance, time and speed are also displayed on the system.
The event was organised by Geocaaching Ireland, a society whose members regularly go on trails similar to this. Geocaching normally involves the discovery of one waypoint where an object may be found, usually in the form of a logbook but sometimes a treasure or trinket for the person who finds it. This leads people not only around cities, but often into the countryside. ‘It takes you to places you never new existed,’said Fjon Klein, a member of Geochachinf Ireland and a volunteer team leader at the treasure hunt.
The final waypoint led the groups to a pub where the teams relaxed and enjoyed chatting about their adventures. ‘This treasure hunt was quite extraordinary,’ said Patricia Olbert, who took part in the event. ‘We didn’t know what it was about when we started but have met some great people and now we know how to use the GPS systems.’
Prizes were given to the teams that completed the trail in the fastest time. The team that finished first, with a time of fifty minutes, were lucky enough to win a set of GPS equipment.