MVRK's Mandalorian Tracking Fob Harnesses an ESP32 to Locate Your Bounty — or Just Your Keys

Inspired by the TV series, MVRK's tracker can be linked to Bluetooth beacons — though its external antenna is purely for show.

Digital experiential agency MVRK has designed a device for the Star Wars fan, featuring an ESP32 at its heart: the Mandalorian Tracking Fob.

"With an experiential tech and maker-project, we took a complex approach and turned it into a simplified at-home project as we made our version of a device inspired by one of our favorite shows," the MVRK team explains, referring to the space-western series The Mandalorian and the exploits of its lead character Din Djarin. "The MVRK version of the tracking fob uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to track down keys, a phone, or other BLE enabled devices or beacons."

"We used an ESP32 Bluetooth-enabled microcontroller and a small LiPo battery to connect to a BLE device and track its signal strength. The closer the tracking fob gets to the selected device (or bounty), the stronger the signal strength and the faster the light on the front flashes."

The core of the gadget, designed to mimic the one seen on-screen, is a DFRobot Firebeetle ESP32 development board connected to a 3.7V lithium-polymer battery and a single red LED. A 3D-printed housing replicates the exterior, complete with non-functional antenna — the actual Bluetooth radio relying on the antenna built into the development board instead.

Straight from the printer, however, the device lacks a certain screen-accurate finish. "We gave the main base of the tracker a light coat of matte black spray paint and used Rub 'N Buff to fill in the metallic looking parts, as well as add in a few scratches," MVRK notes. "No need to go too heavy with this stuff. A little goes a long way.

"The antenna turned out great when we gave it a black base and used a technique called dry brushing to add in brown and red highlights to look like rust. There's no wrong way to do it, but if you're new to these concepts, there are tons of great video tutorials out there."

The full build guide can be found, alongside the Arduino sketch and 3D print files for the housing, on Instructables.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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