An inventor’s GPS-driven scavenger hunt device provides needed adventure in the physical world — minimizing screen time while unlocking meaningful challenges and experiences, said Jeff VanDeusen.
“I’ve always been someone who likes to go outside and enjoy nature, and I know that’s not always what engineers are known for,” said VanDeusen, creator of Scavenger Tech and owner of Raymore-based VanDeusen Innovations. “I just wanted to create this tool that. . . for everyone from little kids to adults who act like little kids when a light pops up, gets people outside to enjoy the world around them.”
The Scavenger Tech adventure box uses GPS technology to track users’ proximity to pre-set locations along a planned excursion path to ensure users visit each point along their journey. Once they reach their ultimate destination, an LED light on the side of the box illuminates, indicating it can then be opened.
“It’s a lockbox, but the key is the locations,” VanDeusen said. “So to unlock it, the key is going to these places in a row, or in order.”
Along the way, users receive clues and puzzles on their phones that guide them through each point on the scavenger hunt.
The device has a battery life of seven hours, and can be turned on and off as users move from one location to the next.
Click here to learn more about unleashing Scavenger Tech.
Scavenger Tech currently offers its adventure box at several escape rooms throughout the country, and also created a scavenger hunt game in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District.
John McGovern, president of Scavenger Tech, said the organization is exploring verticals throughout the travel and adventure industries, including short-term rental hosts and outdoor exploration outfitters.
“We are looking for partners that we can work with to provide adventures,” McGovern said. “[Our goal is] giving purpose to that exploration, going into hidden trails that maybe you knew of and maybe you didn’t, just being able to engage with the beautiful country that we have.”
The value of outdoor exploration and the appreciation — key motivators for VanDeusen and McGovern in launching Scavenger Tech — have become even more apparent as a result of the pandemic, VanDeusen added.
Although users do receive clues on their phones as they complete the scavenger hunt, McGovern said the adventure box is a rare activity that minimizes screen time.
“There’s definitely a technology component. . . but the box is the main driver, and it gets people out into either the city around them or the outdoors,” McGovern said. “That increased time off of screens, out of the house, or out of the four walls of a business, is a major component of what we’re doing.”
Design to destination
VanDeusen never intended to become the founder of Scavenger Tech when he made his first GPS-based adventure box in 2013.
At the time, VanDeusen was just an electrical engineering student at the University of Missouri looking to come up with a unique way to pop the question.
“I had built enough tools in my engineering arsenal to actually start designing and doing some fun projects, and so this was kinda just one of those,” VanDeusen said. “It was just like, ‘How can I take this proposal and make it unique?’”
So VanDeusen built a wooden box that used GPS technology to lead his now-wife, Hannah, on a scavenger hunt of significant locations in their relationship, culminating at a lake as the sun was setting.
“We both really like hiking and going on adventures, so that’s really where the idea came from,” VanDeusen said. “I decided, ‘I’ll send her on a scavenger hunt through some stuff in our relationship, like where we first met and our one-year anniversary.’”
When they reached the final destination, the box unlocked to reveal an engagement ring.
Several years and one wedding later, VanDeusen noticed that the proposal story “always resonated with people.”
“People would tell me, ‘Oh, that is so cool. I would love to do an adventure like that. I would love to have a box,’” VanDeusen recalled. “There’s so many different scenarios where you can use a box like that.”
So in 2019 — more than 6 years after crafting that initial adventure box — VanDeusen filed for a provisional patent. Then, in 2021, Scavenger Tech was officially established.
No limit to expansion
Expansion into new markets was made possible, VanDeusen said, because McGovern built an “ecosystem” around the product that made use much more accessible and customizable.
“I do a lot of the production engineering, and I really don’t do anything with the Internet in my work,” VanDeusen said. “So that’s basically what John does. We kind of merge those two skill sets and knowledge sets.”
McGovern created a dashboard that allows users to make their own games and adventures in roughly 15 minutes by copying and pasting locations from Google Maps, he said.
The Scavenger Tech team can also program the box remotely to create scavenger hunts for users to complete, according to McGovern, provided that they have an adventure box in their possession.
Moving forward, Scavenger Tech hopes to partner with cities and tourism departments to introduce tourists to local attractions and small businesses, McGovern said.
In Kansas City, that includes the potential for visitors in town for the NFL Draft in April to use the adventure box to explore the city, he added.
As the company grows and evolves, VanDeusen wants to make sure that Scavenger Tech continues to dream big.
“I don’t really wanna put limitations on it,” VanDeusen said. “Now, we could do huge, worldwide adventures. There’s really not a limit to it.”