Wednesday, 7 September 2016

QR Code Treasure Hunt for kids

Introduction

Like many, I found the introduction of QR codes quite an intriguing idea. A simple pattern of squares which could be scanned with your smartphone and take you to a webpage or display a block of text.

It wasn't long before I started seeing these alongside museum exhibitions enabling visitors to see additional information, and this in turn has tended to drive public wifi access.

Anyway, my kids think these things are magical.


QR Code with a URL (Area 5.1 Cartoon)


Let's have a Treasure Hunt

One rainy day after the kids had been scanning QR codes on the back of the MagPi magazine I told them about my idea for using QR codes for a treasure hunt. They'd heard of this activity (although not with QR Codes) and were keen to try it, but getting decent clues seemed to be a bit of a problem for them. We googled a few websites that gave some examples, but we weren't impressed. I was sure I could do better.

So I hatched the idea to write my own clues and run a treasure hunt for them about the house and garden.


Building the Clues

There's various ways you can go about creating clues, but care should be taken to ensure you pitch the difficulty level right. You don't want them getting it too quickly, but it should force them to reason it out with a bit of thought. I decided to make mine rhyme and I used the http://www.rhymezone.com/ site to help me.

Here's a few of my examples:-
  • Mirrored Bathroom Cabinet: I’m a cupboard shiny and white, I reflect the world from this clean height. 
  • Door Mat: Stand on me, I won’t get sore, you’ll often find me by the door. 
  • Bike Shed: I’m never too sleepy, but I’m always two tired. In my wooden house your clue can be acquired. 
  • Nut Basket: At christmas time just get snacking, a basket of these will get you cracking. 

Try to include objects from all over the house and garden, including things from their rooms as well as everyday objects. Aim to have at least a dozen, and if you think your clue might be too hard, have a 2nd clue handy. (Before you go much further, review these with another person to ensure you have gauged the level correctly)

Generating QR Codes

Now you have your clues ready, the next step is to convert them into codes. The easiest way to do this is using one of the online webservices. (I used http://www.qr-code-generator.com/ which worked quite well, but it added a bit of a delay between downloads. This could be reduced by refreshing the page every half a dozen or so.)

The one thing I did notice is that longer clues increased the density of the pattern.

OK, once you've finished you should have a load of image files (make sure you unzip them if your chosen service compresses them). Next I added mine into iPhoto (because I use a Mac) and this enabled me to produce a contact sheet (you select it from the printing page). This was just an easy way of getting multiple QR images onto one sheet of paper so they didnt turn out huge when printed. You could manually add them into a word document, or similar if you want.


My QR Code contact sheet
Once printed, cut them into individual squares. Here's where it gets tricky, you'll want your phone handy with your favourite bar code reader (I was using RedLaser on the iphone).


Setting up the Treasure Hunt

I got into a real mess here and ended up with clues leading round in circles, so do yourself a favour and work out the route beforehand. Work through systematically using your phone to read each code. It took me about half an hour to set up 14 clues, so make sure your kids are out of the way, or busy. (Mine were playing Minecraft)

Then I left the first clue lying around where they could find it, and they took the bait. It was great fun watching them running about, trying different ideas and occasionally even working together. An hour later they reached the end where I'd left them each a packet of smarties.