New app helps travelers explore state, Tri-Cities

A new smartphone app requires you to visit specific locations to earn points you can use toward rewards.

No, it’s not the wildly popular Pokemon Go that’s been grabbing headlines all week — it’s the Washington State Insider app, designed by a communications company and eighth-graders at a school in the San Juan Islands.

Locations in the Tri-City area are included in the app.

Tim Fry, the developer who worked with the students, and his family are traveling around the state this summer to promote the app and visit as many of the locations the students researched for it as possible. He also said he hopes others will be inspired to submit more places so all the state’s history can be held in the palm of your hand.

“My goal is to collect as many new places as possible,” he said.

The idea for the app came through Fry’s friendship with Anthony Rovente, a history teacher at Lopez Island Middle School. The men wanted to find a way to make Rovente’s lessons more engaging. They relied on Fry’s past work in location-based marketing in tourism and local commerce to develop the app, with the students creating the content for it.

In Fry’s past projects with his company 468 Communications, people visit specific locations in real-time and the app rewards them with discounts or rewards at specific businesses. In the Washington State Insider app, people earn points to put toward a discounted admission to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.

A handful of Tri-City locations are included. Two are in Richland on Columbia Park Trail near Bateman Island, one in downtown Kennewick and another at Sacajawea State Park outside of Pasco. There’s also one on the Hanford site but that one could be hard to visit, given the site’s security.

The Fry family camped at Charbonneau Park in Walla Walla County while visiting the Mid-Columbia this week for their tour. That’s just upriver from the Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, one of the first recommended additions to the app’s map.

Anyone wanting to make location suggestions for the app is asked to leave comments on Fry’s blog at https://projectwa.org. You can also follow he and his family’s travels through the state.

The free app is available through the Android and iOS app stores by searching for “Washington State Insider.”