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Iowa Tom

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  1. I’m writing this in this forum because it’s for travel bugs. It’s a story with a happy ending that takes place on Easter Sunday, 2014. I hope you will agree. I have been teaching for a long time and it’s always nice to learn that something a teacher does for a student had a positive impact on their life, even if that good news arrives almost a decade after the teacher met the student, then for only a few days. (!) It was in the summer of 2005. I was teaching a “geocaching” class. We would need to use geocaching.com (GC.com) for sure. My handful of students was around 10 – 13 years old. They had registered for a summer enrichment program held at the Marshalltown Community College. It was coordinated through Area Education Agency 267. In that class I taught the basics of geocaching as well as how GPS works. For the group I designed and built a really neat physical puzzle geocache (cache) to place back in Waterloo, Iowa, my place. It was made for the travel-bugs the students would setup and own. I was afraid the TB idea would be problematic because the kids would need to register a free account with geocaching.com using an e-mail address - most didn’t have one - get a toy that they could attach the serial numbered dog-tag to and then most importantly (!) activate their TB tag number at GC.com. As you all know, once activated the students would still need to electronically “drop” the TB off in the geocache (Bugs R-4 "Kids" Habitat) I made for them. After that process was verified I would place the actual TB in the cache and away they would go. My TB fears came to pass. Sure enough, I ended up with a bunch of them that the owners never registered. They were little kids. I know. Fortunately, in the case of a few, I myself had the activation code and could register them from home. However, those bugs I had to claim as mine. I e-mailed the TB real owners and even called some of their homes to try to get all the bugs going and to explain how the real owners could follow the travels even though I “owned” them. I received no responses via e-mail and the personal calls were not well received. They were interpreted as a “who is this guy” call - embarrassing. I did launch the few from the geocache. I kept the tagged TB toys that I myself could not register in a drawer for 8+ years, hoping that someday the owner might contact me to find out what happened. Now…..fast forward to Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 11:50 AM. I got an e-mail from a geocacher that goes by Balogna. Here is the message: ___________________ “Hello Iowa Tom! My name is Toni, and I took a class with you through the Kids in College program at MCC in the summer of 2005. After a long hiatus of not logging any caches I found with my family, I have been caching up a storm. Geocaching is my favorite hobby, and I owe it much to you. I still remember that class fondly and am so grateful to have been able to take it. I was 12 years old when I took the class and am 21 now. Thank you so much for inspiring children to get outdoors and keep finding wonder in the world. I still am. One question I've had all these years is whatever became of the travel bug I started in your class. It's called Meowth, and is a small toy Pokemon. The tracking code is TBKF9Q. You don't still have it by any chance, do you? I thought it was worth asking. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Balogna” ___________________ After some digging through that drawer I mentioned above, and after doing some research about the number on the attached dog-tag, I not only found her Pokemon, we even discovered that it had indeed been registered! I didn’t know. It was never deposited in the cache electronically because the young geocacher did not understand what needed to be done. So there it sat, in a drawer next to my computer for 8 years, 9 months and 8 days. I asked Balogna’s permission to place it my reinforced, locked, premium members only, “travel bug hotel” called the WRBA TB VAULT (GCR677). It's attached to a fence 100 feet behind my house along a cemetery (Balogna said great and changed the TB goal online to travel to her hometown first before it leaves for the world. She would like to see it again and take its picture. Cool. For me that little toy has become a link to a new geocacher and a new Facebook friend (who is majoring in biology, what I majored in too). It has special meaning in how long it has waited to move. Just goes to prove that hanging onto some things might have its reward someday. I’ll have to tell that to my wife. I resurrected the long sleeping Meowth by placing in my geocache on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014. Let's see who gets to it first. Iowa Tom
  2. Yes. If you move enough, it will start over. I set my Magellan Gold at the cache location and let it average 10 minutes. I make sure I have it adjusted so that it doesn't auto shut off while I have it averaging. The last digit in the coordinate changes a lot at first. After 3 minutes it settles down.
  3. I am very pleased with the success of your TB adventure. I myself like to zoom in using an aerial photo to the area where the cache (or whatever) is.
  4. Before placing a geocache in areas where there are sensitive species, you should read about "social trails" and so on. Here are three links to articles that may be informative about this matter. http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/Progr.../Geocaching.htm http://www.trails.com/how_2123_ecofriendly-geocaching.html http://www.nature.nps.gov/yearinreview/YIR2006/01_l.html
  5. Iowa Tom


    I Googled everything geocaching links and found many links like these: http://www.dmoz.org/Recreation/Outdoors/Geocaching/ http://headhardhat-geocache.blogspot.com/2...know-about.html
  6. Hello drcrosley, This is what I would do if I were you. I would consider joining and asking for help from this group. http://hgcs.org/ and or contact as many of the geocachers that have caches in your area as need be until one is found that can help in some way. See http://www.geocaching.com/seek/nearest.asp...27&dist=100 for a list of geocachers. The ones that have been members for more then 2 years and or have found at least 100 geocaches would probably be your best contacts. Good luck, Tom
  7. I would first write to a group listed here that is closest to your location.
  8. A hypothesis for what I am going to speak about here is, "If GPS use is dependent upon how many satellite signals are received, then being in an area free from obstructions will result in obtaining a more accurate coordinate." A major problem that anyone that uses a GPSr has is getting enough satellites to get "good enough" information. Try getting a signal in a downtown full of high buildings sometime! I have worked on this hypothesis by comparing the "accuracy" produced by a controlled number of GPS satellites. Each reading was averaged out over 1 minute. I controlled the number of satellites to use by holding a 2 x 2 foot sheet of heavy gauge sheet metal along any side of the GPSr. I don't know if aluminum foil would work. It may work if the metal is grounded with a wire running to a metal stake (or large nail) poking into the ground. I documented each test by photographing the GPSr screen that shows the position of GPS satellites in the sky. Only the satellites that I got a lock on were the relevant ones. At first I had a lot of trouble getting a steady readout. Eventually I figured out that the digital camera was producing an interfering radio signal of its own! When I moved the camera 1 foot away from the GPSr, the GPS signal seemed to settle down. A telephoto setting still got a close-up of the screen. It's best to mount both instruments on a simple piece of wood. Balance that before mounting it on a tripod. Working at night with a glowing screen prevented glare. Now how do you know if your reading is at all accurate? I would either try to get the coordinate of a GPS marker that is very much out in the open and easy to find. You may try contacting a survey company or the city, or try to locate a marker on your own by reading what I wrote here: http://igo.tamatoledo.org/phpBB3/viewtopic...?f=15&t=226 To make this activity more interesting you can do several things. (1) Look at the GPS satellites in your sky at your local time here: http://www.n2yo.com/ Unfortunately you cannot duplicate another time other than the time you get onto that site. Click on GPS and on draw lines etc. (2) Read what I say about GPS: http://forums.Groundspeak.com/GC/index.php...p;#entry2416536 (3) Go to this: http://science.nasa.gov/Realtime/jtrack/3d/JTrack3D.html and look for GPS satellites. Click on the top one in the list of sats then hit the down arrow key. (3) Check out the GPS satellites here: http://mada.la.coocan.jp/sat/index.htm? I've recently worked with that site extensively. Good luck, Tom
  9. If it's latitude and longitude you are looking for you can find a coordinate for any zip code here. The zips are arranged by state and city.
  10. iGPS is a major enhancement of the GPS system for military use. GPS NEWS: Iridium/Boeing Team Completes High Integrity GPS Program Milestones. Iridium Satellite announces that, in conjunction with Boeing, the companies have achieved two major milestones to further develop and demonstrate capability enhancements to the High Integrity Global Positioning System (GPS) program for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. High Integrity GPS also has the potential to provide geographic positioning data to within centimeters, a vast improvement over current standalone GPS, which provides data within meters. For more information about the iridium satellites and the spectacular light shows they put on, read about a cache I made for them. -it
  11. I'm sure I'm late in posting in this thread but this story seems to fit this explosive topic.
  12. I would begin with epinions.com Garmin is always a good choice. The main problem with the eTrexs I've used is that inputting the waypoints by hand is tedious. Tom
  13. For anyone wanting to know, the reason for my previous two empty posts is that the Internet simply went on and on w/o showing it went through. I got impatient and stopped then resent it more than once. Nathan, take a look at terraserver viewer . You can enter one or more coordinates and look at an old image or an old topo map. The fact that they are old may not be a problem for wilderness areas.
  14. Maybe you should have them find an arbitrary place in town, one of your choosing. The only thing they would need to know about is GOTO and how to input the coordinate manually right? The biggest problem I have had in inputting a coordinate is that I make an error and don't realize it. It would be good to have another person double check that. Practice makes perfect. I find that I forget how to use certain features on my GPS unit if I don't use it for months. Wouldn't happen to be in Michigan would you?
  15. Trimble has a good online tutorial. It would make a decent PowerPoint presentation. May not be specific enough to firefighting. The best way to learn it is to use it. Is it something hand-held or a dashboard type one? I would imagine that, once outside, it may take it a minute or more to lock onto a signal or especially to input the info for a route (if needed) and by that time they may be already on the road and know where they are going. It would be useful for finding something rural but only if you can have a coordinate for a rural address. The Fish & Game officer would have a great need in that someone could be anywhere away from a place with an address. I just Googled Fire Department GPS and found this among a lot of other links.
  16. I make sure to smear glue over and under the rare earth magnets because they will rust is the silver plating chips off. I use Goop. I put magnets inside a container to hold the ones on the outside and I glue the magnet to a bolt head screwed in my wooden caches that include magnets.
  17. I might ramble some here. This may not be all that mysterious but I myself enjoy figuring out where a particular GPS unit has been by pinpointing the waypoints stored in it using Google Maps or Google Earth. The waypoints could be made on location or edited. The location of a kid’s house may be fun. It's interesting to see how many miles are between your position and one degree N (latitude) and one degree W Longitude. Ask the kids which, the distance between latitude degrees or the distance between longitude degrees, vary from the equator to the poles. This can be done by making a waypoint one degree away then making a goto to it. You should be outside for this, or at least have been in the location of the school before the GPSrs where shut down the last time. I've never done the following. It's just some ideas that I can think of right off the bat that would teach the students the meaning of waypoints and coordinates, at least. If the GPS units have maps you could challenge the kids to locate a town or feature that has a specific bearing and is so many degrees and is so many miles away. You might challenge them with finding, by trial and error, a coordinate that is so many miles away and at a specific bearing. They would have to use the goto feature and would have to edit a waypoint for that. Having done that, they could identify that location using mapping software. Other than Google I sometimes use MapQuest. One of my mystery caches requires the seeker to first locate a graveyard. To find the cemetery they must place themselves, using the goto feature, so many miles from where I had them start [and] they must see that the bearing (actually a back-bearing) back to the starting point is what I tell them it should be. E.g. from the resting place a goto back to the starting point read 2.3 miles and have a bearing (back-bearing) of 16 degrees. That would place the graveyard generally south of the starting point 2.3 miles. You might have enough room to do that sort of thing on the school property. The end result could be finding a prize or a "cache" in which is a clue to something else they need to locate etc. I commonly use pictures, even close-ups that a geocacher needs to locate once they reach a predetermined coord. From there they look for an object shown in a second picture and so on. I call that pictocaching. Maybe you can store specific waypoints in each GPSr that, with the help of maps, would “lead” the students to different cities or locations that begin with a certain letter; added together they would spell words. If the whole class compiled the words together they could decipher a sentence from it. If two or more groups had their own sets of words they could see which group would be the first to decipher the sentence. That could lead to an award. I once hid Easter egg “caches”. Each had a word in them. At the end the kids were challenged to assemble the sentence that I wanted them to read. It said, “Thanks for being such good students!” One could do the same with using waypoints stored in the GPSr to locate caches of different names that could be added together to make sentences. The first letter of each location could be one letter of the name of an animal. Figuring out which animal would be like unscrambling an anagram. Good luck, Tom
  18. Thanks for the info! I use the plotting of GPS points and the constant changing of the readings as well as the difference in coords between units as an opportunity to introduce students to the difference between accuracy and precision. Tom
  19. I found that using a flash and a time exposure taken during a heavy snowfall produced an interesting effect. The color gives away the fact that the streetlight uses high pressure sodium. My old Vivitar 283 flash was set at full power.
  20. One of my interests that affects all of us but is unknown to nearly everyone is how to view a picture so that it has the same perspective as the way you saw the scene in real life. It's a bit technical but if you are interested, I wrote about it here.
  21. I worked as a professional photographer in industry for six years and a camera equipment salesman for 6 years before that. As a hobby I've been recording natural history, mostly close-ups, since 1969. The one thing that makes my pictures what they are is, I use a tripod, I shoot at aperture priority and set the f-stop high (usually), I wait for a break in the wind and prefer hazy days over bright sunny ones, unless the sky is in the picture. If you use a polarizing filter, consider not making the colors as intense as you can make them. Turn it part way, instead of all the way to maximum effect. Super saturated color with too little shine looks fake. When shooting kodachrome 64 I always underexposed 1/3 stop, unless I was using a polaizer, then I shot at 64. My close-up pictures were almost always at least 1 second exposures - hence the need to wait for the wind to stop. I learned to know the behavior of the wind by listening to it in the trees then seeing the subject matter move a few seconds later. It comes in waves and is usually quite predictable. -it
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