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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Control Numbers

in: Orienteering; General

Mar 17, 2023 6:31 AM # 
I'm looking for the opinion of others on their preferred way to make and attach control numbers to the flags. I've seen a wide variety of solutions and have my own opinions about those from the perspective of an event participant. However, now I'm beginning to think about this from the perspective of a club and recognize that I am unlikely to think of many things that can lead to trouble like durability for long term storage or wet conditions, etc. Please share your thoughts and experiences or redirect me if there is already a document or discussion elsewhere on this topic. Thanks in advance from Wyoming.
Mar 17, 2023 7:02 AM # 
I don't tihnk we have control codes in flags around here. Makes things easy, no need to select correct flag, any flag will do. Code is attached to the epunch structure.
Mar 17, 2023 8:55 AM # 
In our (Suncoast Orienteering) pre-epunch days we laminated/ waterproofed cards with a set of control numbers on them. Punched holes in the cards so they could easily slip onto the strings used to hang the flags and the two-sided numbers displayed well when the flag was hanging, stored well, in sequence, when needing to be stored. On the card with the number was also printed a message asking people not to remove the flags as an event was in progress.
Now with epunch units displaying the number that is all we use. No number on the flag or string, at all.
Mar 17, 2023 11:50 AM # 
Yep the number is on the SI brick so no need to duplicate it on the stand/flag otherwise you're having to match the brick with the stand. Our MTBO events are different in that the number needs to be seen from a distance (1.5m Air punching). I haven't been involved with the number manufacture though so not much help but I do know it attaches to the stand (can't have it swinging in the breeze).
Mar 17, 2023 3:00 PM # 
Wyoming? Does Swampfox know you're there? Why, you're a mere 3.5 hours away!
Mar 17, 2023 3:20 PM # 
I do know Swampfox and have attended several of their Laramie Daze events on the Medicine Bow NF Happy Jack area over the years. I am certain to be relying on their knowledge as I get things sorted out around here. We've already had some discussions about available LIDAR data sets in the state.
Mar 17, 2023 6:29 PM # 
Mar 17, 2023 6:43 PM # 
Conman, Speaking of available data sets you have a set created in 2019 apparently by FEMA and it is excellent stuff (I have tested it) but I cannot figure out the Coordinate Systen used. It is not UTM, like the more sporadic 2006 LiDAR and apparently not US State Plane.
Would you or Swampfox happen to know the coordinate system used? Their altitude units are in meters wich suggests some type of Transverse Mercator but .... I'm stumped.
Mar 17, 2023 7:26 PM # 
Hey, Gord. I'm not a mapping person (yet), so really don't know much more than that there is newish high quality LIDAR information for the forests and deserts near me. I suspect Swampfox has pretty detailed info on this topic.
Mar 17, 2023 7:47 PM # 
Lidar should come with Metadata file which should spell out the projection used.
Mar 17, 2023 8:09 PM # 
cmorse yes it should but in this case you are welcome to look but the metadata files jusr do not spell it out clearly enough for me to see. There are hints such as the vertical data is in meters which suggest UTM but it isn't. The 2006 series are in UTM and that works fine but the 2006 series covers very little area.
Conman yes the 2019 series covers a lot of area and it is possible to move it into OCAD and OOM but just not as seamlessly and effortlesssly as when the coordinates system is known and OCAD (my program of choice) can make the conversion to its baby, UTM.
Mar 17, 2023 8:12 PM # 
@gordhun if you want to send me a link or reference to the FEMA source/files - I could maybe track down the group that owns the data and either get the info or maybe even get them to make it more clear/useable.
Mar 17, 2023 8:44 PM # 
Here are two links for one of the 2019 tiles
Matt S here are two links from the metadata for one of the tiles.
Citation: U.S. Geological Survey, 20200829, USGS Lidar Point Cloud WY_FEMA_East_2019_D19 w1031n2271: U.S

Product Metadata:

I am only looking for the coordinate system so OCAD DEM Import Wizard will take the LiDAR data coordinate system, convert it to UTM and take it from there.
Mar 17, 2023 9:01 PM # 
I'll try to find the folks next week and let you know.
Mar 17, 2023 9:12 PM # 
Looks like NAD83 (GRS 80) by the metadata, which according to NOAA is the same as WGS84

"Please note that the GRS80 and WGS84 are considered to be the same. Actually, there is a very small difference in the flattening which results in the semi-minor axis, b, being different by 0.0001 meters. There is no known application for which this difference is significant."
Mar 17, 2023 10:01 PM # 
I see a datum of NAD83, but the projection is blank. Does this mean it is unprojected geographic ?
Mar 17, 2023 10:30 PM # 
You folks have "hijacked" my thread about control numbers, but I'm not at all displeased. Thanks for fiddling with this LIDAR topic, too!
Mar 18, 2023 12:02 AM # 
Sorry Conman but you opened the door when you mentioned available LiDAR so that sent certain mapping nerds (self included) on a feeding frenzy.
OCAD wanted to identify the downloaded file as UTM/WGS 84 in UTM Zone 12 and if it had been the upload into OCAD would have been routine and worked fine. But it didn't and OCAD asked me to accept new coordinates which from my experience messes up the geo-referencing of the host file from OSM and any future aerial photo downloads.
Mar 18, 2023 5:08 AM # 
Thanks for the control numbering and mapping input, folks. With regard to control equipment, we're not going to start out with epunching in order to conserve financial resources.

So, I guess what I'm looking for is "old" knowledge from those who once managed equipment when the control flags were the thing at the control with the code/number and the pin punch (or crayons...?! - I have never seen this personally; was this really done previously?) hanging from them.

As a runner & racer (AR), I've been confronted occasionally with control flags where the code was hard to confirm without reaching into the flag, sometimes within a tree where wind has wrapped the whole thing around branches, to "reveal" it. Maybe this is an indictment of my own confidence in my navigation. Maybe it reveals my neurosis about details, even when I'm racing. In any case, I definitely want to make sure the code is easier to confirm *on approach* to the control rather than after one arrives. This region is one where almost all participants will be new to the sport and I want their experience to be as free as possible from logistical frustrations that I can foresee; the navigation will provide plenty of "healthy" frustration already. Uhm...maybe too much info.

In short, more details are desired about what has worked and what doesn't work with control code creation and placement on flags with pin punches. Thanks again!
Mar 18, 2023 8:42 AM # 
I don't know if the US livestock industry uses similar ear-tags to here in NZ, but it revolutionised our usual control design when we realised that there was already a production line for lightweight, durable, pre-numbered labels of around the right size that we could tap into (around about the same time someone also figured out that fibreglass poles used for temporary fencing were also about the right height for control stands and a lot lighter than the steel stands that used to be used)

Google Allflex cattle ear tags if you can't picture what I'm referring to.

Most clubs here still use them even with the numbered SI boxes - the numbering is bigger and easier to read, and it makes life easy for setters when the flags go out before the boxes - you can tell at a glance that you're putting the right box with the right flag
Mar 18, 2023 11:03 AM # 
So long as the right flag is in the right place!
Mar 18, 2023 1:34 PM # 
When we used pin-punching around here, we had pieces of card stock that were about 8"X2" that got folded around the cord for the control flag and stapled. Then the control number was written on both sides with a permanent marker. The card was therefore visible as you approached (from some angles), although the rules said that the number was supposed to be oriented to face upward so that you couldn't read it until you reached the control (but rules like that don't apply to local events). Sometimes people would put some kind of clear tape over it, but just the card stock and permanent marker held up to the weather pretty well. This was in New England, where the controls were all hung from tree branches or whatever and we never used stands.
Mar 18, 2023 4:00 PM # 
Mar 18, 2023 4:03 PM # 
About clipper control stands to hang kites off. There are these things;

And you can see how to do a cheaper DIY version on this;

Mar 18, 2023 5:35 PM # 
I wasn’t aware the IOF rules changed regarding control numbers. It used to be at least 50mm high numbers visible in two directions (or something like that).

Now it reads:

19.6 Each control must be identified with a code number, which must be fixed to the control so that a competitor using the marking device can clearly read the code. Numbers less than 31 must not be used. The figures must be black on white, between 3 and 10 cm in height and have a line thickness of 5 to 10 mm. Horizontally-displayed codes must be underlined if they could be misinterpreted by being read upside down (e.g. 161).

I used 25mm high numbers on the PVC pipe stands OCIN uses, except the three digit stands where the numbers are a bit smaller.
Mar 18, 2023 6:01 PM # 
Let's face it. You are in Wyoming. You are not going to have a lot of convenient trees to hang your control flags on.
Surprisingly I found the same problem in Florida. Not that there weren't trees but often the right trees are surrounded by vines, palmetto bushes and other ugly stuff. And when there are trees in the open often there are no low hanging branches from which to suspend the flags.
So back in the pin punch days we invested in electric fence posts which had hooks on which to hang the flags and the punches.
Everyone from WalMart to Lowes to Tractor Supply has these posts and they are easy to find for well under $5 a piece.
Also look for ones with the step stake feature so they are easier to get in the ground but also be prepared that in the dry times of the year you may need a battery powered electric drill to pre-drill the stake hole. In dry seasons even sandy ground can feel like concrete.
Mar 18, 2023 6:01 PM # 
Why not just write the control number on pin flags with a Sharpie?

Pin punches tangle, break, are a pain to set out or use, and no one really believes that someone will actually verify the correct punches on a card. If you really care about verifying someone went to the right control, you want SIs, but until then pin flags (possibly with optional MapRun or similar gps apps) are quick, cheap, and light.
Mar 18, 2023 11:35 PM # 
Pin flags are kind of small and hard to see, though.

But that said, you could write the codes with a sharpie on all three white parts of the control flag.
Mar 19, 2023 12:21 AM # 
Can someone please post a link to a picture of pin flag in use on an O' course? While I think know what these are in the context of using maps, I'm not clear what these are in the context of course setting. Perhaps they are the same?
Mar 19, 2023 12:51 AM # 
You asked for it:

But other than for schoolyard oreinteering pin flags are not a good idea.
Mar 19, 2023 2:15 AM # 
Thanks. I wasn't planning to use anything other than standard control flags. I just wanted to understand what was being discussed.
Mar 19, 2023 4:06 AM # 
>Pin flags are kind of small and hard to see, though.

Fair enough, but as someone who recently finished two days of old school winter adventure racing including putting out some controls, can we please please please retire pin punches.
Mar 19, 2023 11:44 AM # 
Pin punches worked fine for many decades, all the way up through the world champs. They're still a nice inexpensive option for smaller or newer clubs.
Mar 20, 2023 4:08 PM # 
@gordhun (∨ cmorse) did the NAD83 (GRS 80) / WGS84 coordinates from the metadata work? or should I still try to reach the right FEMA folks?
Mar 20, 2023 5:12 PM # 
> (or crayons...?! - I have never seen this personally; was this
> really done previously?)

Early on (back in the early 1980s) I did a few courses where there was a letter or number at the control, which we had to write on a card. I vaguely remember crayons being involved, but I don't remember if there was one hanging from the control, as opposed to our carrying it with us.
Mar 20, 2023 5:32 PM # 
Matt S. No that did not work. What OCAD is looking for is wheter the coordinates are for the State Plane, UTM, Lambert or some other coordinate system. Perhaps a specially modified UTM like they use in Quebec?
Thanks for anything you can find out.

Crayons? Sure. Never for an orienteering event but sometimes for class or group events. Tape a string to the crayon, tie the string to the control. Tell the orienteers not to press too hard, expect a few of the crayons to break but the job to get done.
Mar 20, 2023 5:34 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I've used crayons.

~15 years ago, I volunteered (through my then-employer) to teach after-school math & science activities to middle school kids. I decided to do a unit on orienteering (but I didn't have any of my own equipment), so I made a rudimentary map of the school, used pin flags for controls, and put a different color of crayon at each pin flag. Each kid carried around a card and marked it with the crayons.
Mar 20, 2023 5:58 PM # 
I don't mind checking pin punches, but as a colorblind guy, checking crayon colors would not be the job for me! ;-)
Mar 20, 2023 9:43 PM # 
I have been equipment manager for QOC in the past. Pin punches are still required for national events as backup to epunches. We just got though putting them on all the controls for the event, and then taking them back off. We no longer use pin punches as backup at local events.

For labels: we now only have them on the epunch unit at local events. This poses problems when the control bag isn't hung with the epunch unit. It take makes things much easier to hang. In the past we used rectangular labels made out of various materials (metal, plexiglass) with a printed code taped on. It would have a single hole in the middle and fit over the control hanging string. We permanently tied them on and didn't remove them between events. The advantage of having the label on the bag top was to help ensure all the bags came back as well as the epunch units. The down side is you have to grab the right bag when putting out controls. For the label: just make sure the label is waterproof. Some of our early labels had ink that bled over time as they got wet.
Mar 21, 2023 7:19 PM # 
For control numbers you can use laminated luggage tags which have a slot punch at one end. You can attach this to a lanyard and hang the lanyard and pin punch from the bag. This keeps the numbers separate from the bags.

I have used laminated numbers cut so there was enough space to put two holes in the laminate without breaking the seal. I would attach the numbers to the bag using lanyard hooks. In my club we have two sets of bags, one with numbers and one without numbers.
Mar 22, 2023 9:34 AM # 
I wonder would it be possible to crowdsource pin punch checking, just by taking photos of punch cards and publishing them. If someone suspects something he/she would surely take a look at the photo. And knowing the card will be published might make some punch more carefully.
Apr 1, 2023 11:39 AM # 
As an alternative to pin punches in order to get off the ground cost-efficiently, consider using the iOrienteering (iO) app. This is a free app available to runners for their Android and iOS devices that can provide leg timing without the expense of a full set of SI equipment.

Our club started using iO during the pandemic in "self-serve" courses that were available to be run over an extended period of time, typically spanning 2-3 weekends. This proved to be so popular that we continue to offer a few of these types of events each year.

Here's a link to some photos of the controls that were assembled for use on these courses.

This discussion thread is closed.