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Discussion: SPORTIdent software for teaching orienteering in schools

in: Orienteering; General

Feb 27, 2021 6:52 PM # 
Navigation Games is using Easygec with great success in teaching orienteering to schoolchildren.
(Thank you to Cristina and our Italian intern for pointing us in that direction.)

It figures out which course the student ran by matching against a set of courses. If they got all the controls in the right order, they get a happy face, the elapsed time, and a "Yay!" sound plays. If they missed some controls, they get a sad face and an "Oh no!"

This has been amazing for letting the kids self-assess and move on to another course. The teacher's time is freed up to focus on kids who are having problems. We use it successfully with schoolchildren as young as 4 years old, doing courses with pictorial clue sheets. We use it to make sure that every child understands how to go to checkpoints in order.

I'd like to start writing our own code for processing SI times, in order to create different games. It would be really great if we could write for any OS. What are our options for SI upload to a computer at this time, and writing code on top of that - what is your recommendation for getting started quickly?

Feb 27, 2021 7:45 PM # 
Seems like it would be more efficient to work with the developer of an existing low-cost solution, e.g. SI Droid or even Easygec, to add support for more variations rather than starting from scratch.
Mar 2, 2021 8:43 AM # 
@barb, I agree with Cristina that contacting authors of existing things is probably a better route than starting new - and in fact I don't see any detail in your post above of what new games you have in mind. As an IT guy I'd like to recommend there be a detailed specification of what is the goal before any code is written, otherwise it's wasted time.

Nonetheless, let me answer your question from a technical point of view: reading SI-cards is not overly complicated. There are at least three routes I can think of:
* SPORTident provides a "SI Reader" app which can download data and publish it, for example to text files, sockets or serial streams (this would be Windows only).
* Also, they have a .NET-component that can be imported into software (primarily Windows, but I have reports it works in Mono-based environments, for example Linux and even Android).
* Finally you could go the not actually sooo hard way and implement the serial communication yourself - this consists of binary requests and responses and there is documentation of the data formats. This route has been walked by numerous developers, there are some free libraries out on Github, python code among others. This is by far the most platform-open option, however you are still limited to systems that allow access to USB-connected devices, this rules iOS (iPhone, iPad) out.
Apr 13, 2021 7:17 AM # 
@barb, I notice you didn't follow up on the suggestions here. As I was touching up my "chip mixer" software yesterday (reads multiple chips, merges punches, simulates a download station to other software and offers the merged data for download as one chip) I'd just like to confirm that reading at least anything but SIcard5 is fairly easy to code - and SIcard5 just needs a bit of time-arithmetic.
Jan 30, 2022 10:17 PM # 
I'd like to avoid having to have a Windows computer, which I believe is required for Easygec or SI Reader.
SPORTident now requires an Android device for their printer in the school set. They don't even sell the ability to download directly to a printer without going through an Android device. (Am I wrong?)
So it would be nice to be able to have a single device instead of both the Android (SI printer) and the Windows computer (Easygec). And I think that would be Android (for the printer).

So back to jSh:
* SI Reader is on Windows, not Android. (Java code base, which doesn't work on Android, right?)
* .NET component: "even Android" - this is promising I guess
* serial communication to an Android tablet - this sounds possible.

Maybe tell me more about your chip mixer software?
I'd love if someone else could solve the reading bits and I just do logic on the results and the display.
Jan 31, 2022 6:14 PM # 
Java has been on Android for several releases.
Feb 8, 2022 3:11 PM # 
Hi @barb, here's some thoughts...

* my "chip mixer software" is Windows software, so won't help you here. I was merely underlining that the data structure of SI chip punch data is rather easy to parse.
* SPORTident has published two Android apps that can read SI chips (SPORTident Orienteering and SPORTident Mobile Reader), and there are others (SI Droid et al), so we really can regard it as proven that reading chips on Android devices (phones and tablets) with USB-OTG support is possible.
* Therefore I repeat my recommendation to contact authors of software similar to what you want to do (and EasyGec seems a likely choice) to discuss your plans and possibly porting existing PC-software over to the Android world.
* I have no experience programming Android apps whatsoever - BUT if need be I can help understanding the chip data, though I would expect aforementioned software authors know what's needed already.
Feb 8, 2022 5:11 PM # 
I'll also note that SI Droid has support for score events as well as classic point-to-point events, and you could probably have it recognize a decent number of different kinds of courses. And I'm pretty sure I remember seeing a setting to have it play a success sound if a download matches a course and is complete. You could run an event with maze and animal-o and mini-sprint courses (or whatever) and use a single tablet + mini-reader (and, optionally, thermal printer). Positive noises for success, "receipts" for the kids, no computer or power source necessary.
Feb 8, 2022 7:23 PM # 
I had known about Easygec for a few years but hadn't given it much attention before reading this thread. It does look good for managing school O-games and "village fair" type public demonstration activities. The green/red smiley face is obviously the main attractive feature missing from other systems. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the question is how do we achieve a similar affect using cheap and portable tablet type equipment ?

Cristina has explained well what SI-droid can do regarding course setting. SI-droid can be run on a fairly old android phone, but test the phone or tablet first with the free "SI-droid Lite" version first to see if it works before buying.

As Cristina says, if you go through the SI-droid settings to "Read out alarms" you can choose any sound file to alert to either "course found and runner OK" or "course found and runner not OK" or "course not found". Also, if you have set your android phone or tablet going as a WiFi hotspot, in the SI-droid Settings it is possible to select "Result Service" which allows you to view the latest result on another device on the WiFi network. Selecting "Result Service" displays a url which can be displayed on a browser on up to 10 other devices within 30 meters. At the moment the results available can be chosen between several html or spreadsheet options. When "Result Service" is selected an icon appears on the top of the screen; swipe down on that icon and tap on the alert message to reveal the choices of result available along with the exact url required for each result type. The developer, Johan, is very helpful and he might be amenable to a request to add a result type which emulated in some way the Easygec red/green smiley, maybe green for "course found and runner OK" and red for both "course found and runner not OK" and "course not found". Actually, I know a few folk who are red/green colour blind so maybe different colours ?

So I can picture myself using an android phone at one side of the table to operate the software while a tablet receiving the "results service" is set up facing the downloading kids to display some sort of go/ no go message.

Apologies for the rambling nature of this contribution, it is stream of consciousness typing.

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