Beacon Hunt

Framework for a game to locate a nRF24L01+ as a BLE beacon. Not as fancy as some with triangulation or GPS. But simple and cheap.

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I was working on the still unfinished raspiBadger project and got sidetracked with using the same RF modules as a Bluetooth Low Energy device. Instead of working to integrate this idea with that project, I thought I would explore the possibilities available with a cheap BLE device.

BLE with the nRF24L01+ is pretty limited compared to an iBeacon or similar device where a connection and OTA programming is possible and data transfer is more robust. I managed to throw a few beacons together and could detect them using a general BLE app on my phone.

Ultimately, I managed to get a working app put together so that I can run a small scavenger hunt around the house with the intent to have a larger event next May for my kid's birthday party.

Source files for the Cordova app, Arduino code, and php/mysql are available in the Github repo so you can get started on your own hunt.

If you have programmed an Arduino and set up a LAMP server before, go straight to Github for the files and start tweaking.

If you need a little help putting this together for yourself, I'll be adding build instructions for each component as I have time.

I bought a lot of 10 nRF24L01+ modules for about $15, and found Arduino Pro Mini boards at $3.50 a piece in bulk so you can easily build out a dozen beacons for under $100. That'll make a good game around here at the Beach.

With a little modification to the App, you can tailor this to any event.

  • 1 × Arduino Pro Mini Any Arduino with Hardware SPI
  • 1 × nRF24L01+ Module Modules with L shaped antenna did not work with BLE
  • 1 × Mobile Device with Bluetooth 4.0

  • PCB Successful Failure

    TheBogueRat10/30/2014 at 17:41 0 comments

    I thought I would try to make some home-etched PCB's since I've had some copper clad boards laying around for the last 25 years and finally have an interesting project and the tools to make them.

    I laid out the board with Eagle. Just a bunch of connectors with big pads. I used flat black paint and a 40watt chinese laser to remove paint. Etching compound was 2:1 Hydrogen Peroxide to Muriatic Acid. Simple. Why haven't I found a reason to do this earlier?

    The photo illustrates my two attempts. The v.1 board was etched after V.2 because it didn't look like it the small traces would etch properly, I was wrong. The traces are good but the pads for the nRF are nonexistent. I'll try to drill and use this board anyway.

    V.2 came out good with nice traces and large pads.

    Here's the V.2 board populated with the components. Still waiting for the CR2032 battery holder that will go under the nRF module. It looks a little big but I had to run traces, breakouts, and fit the battery holder. And I didn't trim off that last eighth to quarter inch around the edge.

    So why was this a failure, I can only detect the nRF24L01+ module with my phone when I touch the nRF antenna with my finger. I think the copper clad is jacking up the signal. Both modules work fine on the breadboard, they stop transmitting when attached to my new breakout board. I'll try cutting out the area where the battery holder would go to see if that is the cause.

    Here's some additional photos of the board before etching. Notice I used a razor to clean up the v.2 board (first etch attempt) which was not necessary. After that, I threw in the v.1 board just to see what would happen. To my surprise, even those dark black areas etched perfectly. It looks like the laser charred it enough that the etch solution could work it's way through. I also messed up that board by trying to cut it with a guillotine-style paper cutter, yeah, don't do that. Instead, I used a razor blade to score the copper then snap it off. I think I need to find a cheap scroll/band saw.

View project log

  • 1
    Step 1

    Beacon Wiring

    nRF24 pin Arduino Pin

    Gnd Gnd

    3v3 3v3

    CE 9

    CSN 10

    MOSI 11

    MISO 12

    SCK 13

    IRQ n/a

    If using ~3V power source, VCC else use RAW pin.

View all instructions

Enjoy this project?



Hugo Rosário wrote 03/11/2016 at 21:19 point

Hi, cool project you have got here.

I actually found this project from a link on aliexpress comments section while looking for NRF24L01 modules for exactly the purpose of making a beacon game.

You beat me to it.

I am planning on using ATTiny85 + NRF24L01 and power them with coin battery cells. 

Great project and a fun idea. Keep it up.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Justin wrote 02/17/2016 at 07:38 point

I made an eddystone beacon with an old NRF24LE1.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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