Schuylkill Valley senior brings technology to the trails

Submitted photo Grant works on his Eagle Scout project by putting QR codes on the posts on Union Trail.

A local teen has combined his love of the outdoors and of technology in a project designed to help him attain the rank of Eagle Scout as well as help folks learn more about the Union Canal Towpath trail.

Grant Grubbs, of Bern Township, a senior at Schuylkill Valley High School, spent much of this past spring working on new QR codes for several posts along the Union Canal Towpath trail. Between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Grant has been in scouting for eight years.

I knew I wanted to do something that in some way or another related to technology, he said. After thinking a little bit, and after looking around, there werent many technology-related projects that interested me enough.

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But the proximity of the trail to his home made something click.

I live close to the Reading Airport and the trail is within a three-minute walk from my house, he said. I use the trail at least once a week.

Grant added that he also uses the trail to travel to his work a 21-minute bike ride from home.

Since QR codes are often seen on many things in order to get people to a Web site, I connected the idea of putting the QR codes on the numbered posts, which would send people to the Grings Mill Web site, he said. (The Web site is actually www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Parks/Pages/UnionCanalTowpathTrail.)

QR codes, similar to bar codes, just contain information that a special reader, like a smart phone or tablet, can read. However, QR codes can also direct viewers to a Web site, text, images and more.

Grant contacted Cathy Wegener, superintendent of interpretive services at the parks department to determine the feasibility of his idea and the project.

Following approval by Wegener and Chris Stress, director of the parks department, Grant had to get the project approved by his home Boy Scout Troop 190 and a Boy Scouts of America representative.

In a couple of months, he began the project, working first on getting all the necessary supplies.

Originally, the project was going to be replacing all 12 posts and mounting signs with the QR code onto them, he said, but that proved to be too time consuming and expensive, so we limited the project to just replacing posts #1, 2, and 5.

His scout troop leader donated the three replacement posts. After cleaning them up, the numbers (1, 2, and 5) were routed into the sides. Grants next step was to go on line and make the QR codes using a Web site that created them for him. He then contacted Brown Sign which made the QR code signs.

The other posts, in fair condition, did not require replacements. However, Grant said, a sign could be mounted onto some other posts, such as #12, after cutting the tops at 40-degree angles.

After he secured the necessary materials, Grant had to come up with a work schedule for his fellow scouts who helped with the project. On the first day, they tackled post No. 5, removing the old post and replacing it. The QR sign was placed on it and the numbers embedded in the post were painted. This process was repeated two more times.

On the second work day, the scouts cut the tops of posts 8 and 12 at 40-degree angles and mounted signs on them. They also spruced up some of the other posts, re-painting numbers to make them more visible.

When the project was completed, both the parks department and his Boy Scout troop approved the work.

Grant is still awaiting word from a representative of the Boy Scouts of America to determine what step of the process his project has attained. He ultimately will need to present it to scout board which he hopes will approve it and grant him the status of Eagle Scout rank.

In total, Grant said the project took five months from concept to completion. A total of 13 individuals assisted him in the project.

It was great working with Grant on this project and am very pleased with how the QR code signs turned out, said Wegener. Its great bringing our Union Canal history to more people through this new technology.