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by Gordon McComb & Eral Boysen


Discover where in the world you are with this very cool electronic compass! This magnetic compass uses the same technology that manufacturers build into many cars to show you your direction electronically. Four LEDs light up to show you the four cardinal points on the map: N (north), S (south), E (east), and W (west). The circuit illuminates adjacent LEDs to show the in-between directions, SW, SE, NW, and NE.


Peeking under the compass hood

At the heart of this project is a special compass module, the Dinsmore 1490. This module isn’t a common, everyday part. You have to special order it, but you can have a lot of fun with the project, making it worth the $13 to $15 that you pay for the compass module. Check out the manufacturer’s representative at www.robsonco.com for the compass module, and don’t forget to try other possible sources by doing a Google or Yahoo! search. Try the search phrase  “dinsmore compass.” The 1490 compass module is about the size of a small thimble. The bottom of the sensor has a series of 12 tiny pins, as you can see in the pinout drawing in Figure 14-8. The pins are arranged in groups of four and consist of the following connection types:

  • Power

  • Ground

  • Output (or signal)


You can see the schematic for the electronic compass in Figure 14-9. By doing some careful soldering, you can build a nice portable, electronic compass that you can take anywhere. Put it in a small enclosure, with the LEDs arranged in typical clockwise N, E, S, W circular orientation. You can buy enclosures at RadioShack and other electronics stores. They come in a variety of sizes, starting from about two inches square. Select an enclosure large enough to contain the circuit board and batteries. You can power the compass by using a 9-volt battery. Add a switch from the + (positive) terminal of the battery to turn the unit on or off, or simply remove the battery from its clip to cut the juice and turn off your compass.



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