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Wireless Laser-Gate Timing System for Track and Field

Wireless Laser-Gate Timing System for Track and Field © GPL3+

Costs around $120 USD (incredibly cheap compared to competitors) and uses easy-to-find components.

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Components and supplies

Apps and online services

About this project


During my Track and Field training sessions, my coach often expressed his desire to have a more precise way of measuring an athlete's performance. However, living in a third-world-country means that shipping from the US is expensive and sports clubs and educational institutions do not have precise timing systems as a funding priority.

I had been working on line-follower robots with Arduino for some time, so I realized that an affordable, wireless and precise laser gate timing system made of easy to find components should be possible. Accounting for the different prices across the world, absolutely all of the components and parts needed for the complete system should cost around 100USD. This is a major price difference with other systems, considering that it has a very decent precision and has a wireless range that exceeds almost any Track and Field oval in the world.

The system consists of two finish line modules and one start line module.

In the finish line, you will have an Arduino UNO, nRF24L01+ Transceiver, LED button pad, photoresistors, LEDs, plastic enclosure, and tripod together with my Finish Line PCB. This module acts as the master, from the LED button pad you will decide when to start the timer.

On the opposite side of the track, you will have a laser that is aligned with the photoresistors. You can either buy a Keyes laser module, a 3.3V regulator, a 9V battery, and my Laser Module PCB, or you can provide your own laser pointer. What matters is that the laser is in a steady position and provides enough light.

In the start line, you will have an Arduino UNO, nRF24L01+ Transceiver, speaker, LEDs, plastic enclosure, and my Start Line PCB. This module is in constant communication with the master and uses an LED to inform the user that it is still connected. When measuring time, the LED will change color.

How it works

First, you will set the module on its final position, and follow the prompts that appear on-screen. The photoresistors will automatically calibrate to the ambient light conditions, but it is important that they are inside the plastic enclosure, getting light from a hole in the enclosure. The master module will automatically search for another nRF24L01+ in its range, but will only connect if it has the same electronic "signature", a number that is different for every single system and is concatenated at the end of every message the master and start line module sends. This way, there can be a hundred of these systems in the same track, but will not interfere with one another, thanks to the signature. The system has a wireless range of 250m+. Even in places crowded with WIFI, the system has no trouble connecting and maintaining a more than decent range.

The master module offers two ways of measuring an athlete's performance. First, MANUAL: this mode sets a stopwatch directly after pressing the start button. Great for athletes that work with coaches.

Secondly, AUTO: this mode allows an athlete to set off a timer that will allow him/her to have a scheduled start time, allowing time to walk from the finish line, where the master module sits, to his/her preferred start line.

When the master sends a stopwatch message, the startline module will shout: On your marks! Get set! PEEEEEEEP!. The stopwatch will begin in the same fashion a real race measures time and will stop when the athlete crosses the laser-gate at the finish line.

The system will provide accurate time-keeping and show the athletes time on the LED screen. When done, just press SELECT and try to beat it next time.

Please watch, as the video will show a track demonstration and a look inside each of the modules which will help explain how it works.

Wiring for the Arduino UNO in the Finish Line Module

Connect from Finish Line PCB

  • A1 = Photoresistors
  • A2 = Photoresistors
  • A3 = green LED
  • A4 = blue LED
  • A5 = red LED

Connect from nRF24L01+ Adapter

  • CE = 2
  • CSn = 3
  • SCK = 13
  • MISO = 12
  • MOSI = 11

Connect LCD Shield

Wiring for Arduino UNO in the Start Line Module

Connect from Start Line PCB

  • 4 = green LED
  • 5 = blue LED
  • 6 = voltPin
  • 3 = speaker
  • A5 = voltLED

Connect from nRF24L01+ AdapteR

  • CE = 9
  • CSn = 10
  • MISO = 11
  • MOSI = 12
  • SCK = 13

Here are some close-up images of the modules.

Finish Line Module

Start Line Module

Laser Module


Finish Line Module Code
Upload this into Arduino Uno at the Finish Line Module
Start Line Module Code
Upload this into Arduino Uno at the Start Line Module


Custom Laser PCB Schematic
You can also use any laser module or laser you have lying around. But I created my own.
Custom Laser PCB Board
Custom Finish Line PCB Schematic
This is the PCB that goes in the module that sits in the finish line
Custom Finish Line PCB Board
This is the PCB that goes on the finish line module
Custom Start Line PCB Schematic
This is the PCB that goes in the module that sits on the start line
Custom Start Line PCB Board
This is the PCB that sits on the start line


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