Science project

When you were a kid, did you work through the projects in books such as The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments or Fun with Electronics: Build 25 Amazing Electronic Projects!? If you did'and even if you didn't'you'll find a lot to enjoy in Donald Cooke's Fun with GPS, which gently introduces readers to the emerging world of Global Positioning System-based tracking.

Make no mistake, Fun With GPS is no mere scientific cookbook for inquisitive rugrats. In fact, it's a perfect primer for executives who may vaguely understand what GPS is but have little idea of how it could be put to practical use.

Cooke shows all the different and sometimes surprising ways the technology can be deployed. He attached his GPS unit, a low-cost GPSMAP 76 from Garmin Ltd., to an ice skater who raced around a frozen lake. He hooked the device to his dog to find out where his itinerant pet wandered off to during the day. He even boxed his unit up and mailed it across the country to track delivery truck routes.

A GPS unit checks its position every few seconds, recording the longitude and latitude by triangulating signals sent by orbiting satellites. This record can then be plotted on a map using a data viewer. In these little experiments (some worked better than others), Cooke shows how versatile GPS units can be.

It is a short imaginative jump from his whimsical projects to thinking about how to apply GPS in more serious geographic tracking and navigation endeavors, ones that could improve agency operations.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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