Weatherproofing homebrew GPS kit (part 3)

With the first GPS Orchestra workshop and the Ikon Youth Programme project coming up, there’s been growing urgency to find a way of protecting my GPS modules from a) people and b) weather.

I’ve been toying with the idea of laser cutting some cases, but have found prices prohibitive, so I had to think laterally…

Job done – I’ve turned a dozen of these battery-to-USB-power gadgets from the pound shop

nah, we'll use it for something else, thanks.

Into a swarm of Cumbria-ready GPS units.

swarm of GPS receivers#

There’s a Flickr set showing the intermediate stages…

Weatherproofing homebrew GPS kit (part 2)

Holland Park Umbrella

By taping it to the underside of an umbrella. On a gloriously sunny afternoon.

This afternoon I spent an hour wandering around the picnic-ers and sunbathers in Holland Park whilst carrying an umbrella.

During that time one child exclaimed loud enough and close enough for me to engage him in conversation (and an explanation); one woman gave me a look and a smile; and two men who had just thrown a stone at a pigeon told me it wasn’t raining. The latter also got an explanation.

On this occasion, the explanation has something to do with this.

Holland Park umbrella

Weatherproofing homebrew GPS kit (part 1)

So, I spent most of the day prior to the Ikon walk wrapping GPS modules and Arduino microcontrollers in plastic bags.

Wrap 'em in plastic

This is not an ideal solution to the ongoing challenge of protecting electronics from the weather! Since having one of my GPS modules stop working on the Fermynwoods residency, I’m also increasingly aware of needing to protect the units from the mild battering they get every time I use them in a workshop or for an event.

Time to invest in some proper protection.

After a bit of a search around, I found someone had been kind enough to share the files for a 3D printed GPS case on Thingiverse and thought it would be worth giving it a try…

3D printed GPS case

3D printed GPS case

It took about 30 minutes to print out the case. It needed a bit of knife work to trim off ‘squidgy bits’ that were preventing it from closing properly and to open up the case above the misaligned aerial dot, but the end result was pretty much as hoped.

3D printed GPS case

One drawback is that it’s a nice snug fit. Fine if you’re going to leave the module inside the case, but trying to remove it involved a fair amount of prising with a screwdriver and this can’t be a good thing!

3D printed GPS case

Second time around I placed some plastic under the module before placing it inside the case. This helped a little by providing something to pull on, but still not a real solution. (I’d probably try some ribbon or something with less stretch next time.)

The other main issue for me is that this process is not really of a high enough standard for me to use in an art project. Fair enough if it was hidden away, but these are likely to be on view quite a lot, so I need to pay careful attention to the material and quality of finish.

It would also be nice to be able to find a streamlined solution, but I think a certain amount of bulkiness is probably a price I’m going to have to pay.

Plan B is, I think, to investigate an acrylic laser-cut case. I want a certain amount of translucency so I can see the status LED on the GPS module, but I think having the tech on view is also a good thing for workshop scenarios.

Stay tuned as the experiments continue…

2 degrees of weatherproject

I’ve just got back from Dresden where the weatherproject forms part of the exhibit
2° WEATHER, CLIMATE, MAN at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum until April next year.

Here are some photos of the doings (for my Mum) and some thoughts about display (for me, ‘cos one day I’m going to nail the presentation of this piece of work).

Launch event

I’d suspected it was going to be big, but first response on seeing the museum building was something along the lines of “eek”. Other adjectives that came up over the next few days included ‘imposing’ and ‘didactic’. Here’s why:

DHMD front view

I should therefore have guessed it would have been rather more of a formal launch event than I was used to: speeches started at 7 and lasted for close to 2 hours.


After the speeches drew to a close there was a bit of a mass exodus as probably about 500 people descended back down to the main entrance hall and the bar.


DHMD courtyard

Waiting staff periodically emerged bearing trays of cheesy sticks, pretzels and sandwiches etc to be swarmed around by the guests. I wish I’d got some good photos of that!

We eventually made our way to the exhibition halls which were, by now, only fairly rammed rather than being completely rammed! It’s hard to describe the feel of this place: part science museum with interactive bits and pieces; part civic museum with dimmed lights and watchful attendants; part at gallery, part… The best way to get an impression of the mood and the scale is to have a look at the photos on the German-language section of the DHMD website.

Exhibits ranged from the exploded shards of lightning-struck trees through to a small canister of top secret recipe snow-globe snow. Nice.

the weatherproject was in the third room, curated by Novina Göhlsdorf to bring together different cultural responses to the weather. My jars are temporarily hanging about with the likes of one of Her Majesty the Queen’s umbrellas and latex casts of hurricane-flattened homes.


It was quite strange to see a tiny fraction of the entire collection at once looking so small and also so big. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m glad I didn’t have to make that selection of 30 jars from over 10 times as many in the complete collection!


I arrived at the museum not knowing anything about how they were intending to display the jars and record slips. This was intentional because I’ve always struggled to present this work and wanted to give them free reign to see what solutions they came up with with their resources, experience and expertise.

It was really interesting to compare their method of display with the one I used for the threshold exhibition back in 2004. My solution for threshold was to construct an 18′ long table with a folded plastic cover that arched quite snugly over the jars. (the cover is removed in most of the photos at the previous link because of the way it attracted the dust…). At the DHMD, the designers had made a similar cover out of similar materials and of a similar scale with respect to the size of the jars. All much more skilfully executed though! Rather than heating and folding a single strip of polythene/acrylic they had cut and glued individual pieces of much thicker stock to give some really nice clean corners. I’m jealous…


The DHMD installation also paired each jar with its record slip and gave each pairing quite a lot of space. At threshold I had 250 jars and was using the opportunity to get them all out on show en masse as physical objects and so they were a lot closer together. The threshold jars were all closely bunched together and the record slips available digitally at one end of the table.

The DHMD approach had a strange homogenising effect – both through intentional selection of collections made in the standard jar and with no additional labels/contents etc and through the omission of the individual ephemera such as postcards and photos that accompany most of the jars. This and the lighting/mid grey plinth colour led to quite an austere effect. Very different to what had gone before and I suppose made possible by both the exhibition and curator’s distance from the people who had made the contributions.

I can see how this was appropriate to the task in hand here, but the work did lose some of it’s quirkiness that I think is one of it’s strong points. I don’t dislike this format, however, and it may be something I experiment with more in future presentations…


I loitered a bit and watched how people interacted with the display, and have to say that I didn’t see many people do more than look at one or two of the jars. I’m not sure if this is an observation worth basing any theories on seeing as how people were having to zip around quite fast to try and see everything before closing and, well, if there’s a bank of empty jars labelled up in a different language next to an interactive display of snow-globes which one are you going to choose! I know which one I’d go for!

Actually, as it turned out, I got totally drawn in by a black and white film of rain in Amsterdam in the late 1920s. Regen by Joris Ivens and Manus Franken (here with soundtrack, although it was silent at the Dresden exhibition).

Regen, (pluie), joris ivens

Back to the jars…

Another thing I found interesting was watching how people’s engagement with the work shifted. Typically people would glance at one or two jars and then, sometimes, go and read the accompanying text describing the work. That was the hook! If they did this then 9 times out of 10 they’d go back to the jars and have a closer look – often with a smile on their face and usually grabbing whoever they were with and getting them to have a look too!

So, all in all a method of display that brought along a whole bunch of new things to consider, but also reiterated old hunches too. Hopefully we’re getting closer to the ultimate weatherproject format…

If you happen to be in Dresden over the next few months I can recommend you stop by and check out the exhibition. Take the randomness of the weatherproject and then multiply that by 4 large rooms full of stuff both curious and scientific. There’s a whole range of interesting things all brought together here and you’ll definitely find something that whets your appetite.

And finally…

After the launch had officially ended we found our way to the after-party in seminar room 8. A good time was had by all, despite the strangely prison-like surroundings and the stinky cheese!

I’m going to finish up with these two photos that I really like (party lights and top-end museum security) and, more importantly a big thanks to Family Göhlsdorf et al for making my trip a lot easier than it could have been otherwise.




January 18th, 2007: Waiting for a friend outside the Serpentine Gallery, in quite strong winds.

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