The app, The Sea Turtle Day App, featured augmented reality to give visitors of all ages a more dynamic and interactive way to experience the festival and learn about sea turtle rehabilitation and conservation.
Daruma Tech designed and built a mobile app for the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center’s biggest event, its annual Sea Turtle Day. The app offered event attendees a convenient way to access maps of the center, view a schedule of the day’s activities, find information on the festival’s vendors, and learn about the center’s exhibits and animals on display. The Sea Turtle Day app was so well received that Gumbo Limbo is now considering expanding it into a permanent app for year-round visitor use.
Boca Raton, Florida-based Gumbo Limbo envisioned the Sea Turtle Day app as a tool to advance its mission of conservation and environmental education by reducing the paper waste from printed visitor guides while offering a fresh way to engage its visitors. “With thousands of people attending the festival, we were searching for a way to reduce the amount of paper we produce and provide the enhanced capabilities that a digital platform can provide,” explained Michele Kurucz Peel, president of the Friends of Gumbo Limbo.
The app also offered video and augmented reality features to give visitors of all ages a more dynamic and interactive way to experience the festival and learn about sea turtle rehabilitation and conservation. These features include a sea-turtle-themed treasure hunt in which users “collect” 3D images of turtles by scanning QR codes at selected locations throughout the festival, as well as augmented-reality targets throughout the exhibits that offer users trivia questions about that exhibit when scanned with the app. (Users also get animated hints to the correct answers.) Not only are these features engaging and fun, they also provide richer information than traditional media such as signs and brochures. “Feedback from staff and visitors was overwhelmingly positive, and even our littlest users were delighted with the features and ease of use,” Peel said.
Best of all, Peel added, development of the app was both seamless and affordable. “As a non-profit, finding a reasonably priced solution was a key factor in our selection of Daruma Tech,” she said. “They exceeded our expectations through great communications and responsiveness through the development process.”
Because of their positive experience with Daruma Tech and the app’s enthusiastic reception by users, Gumbo Limbo envisions expanding it into a site-wide app for year-round use. Extra material, such as a treasure hunt in the center’s butterfly garden and additional virtual-reality assets, will give Gumbo Limbo a powerful new way to educate its visitors and promote environmental awareness.
Daruma Tech is designing the expansion to be affordable as well: It is building the app on an existing template designed especially for museums and educational institutions and is donating much of the labor for development. To help Gumbo Limbo avoid future data maintenance expenses, Daruma Tech is designing the app to be compatible with open-source data management systems such as WordPress and Joomla.
Another innovative design feature is the app will also serve as a tool for Gumbo Limbo’s fundraising and development. Users will be able to make charitable donations through the app, and Gumbo Limbo will be able to recruit advertisers to sponsor additional modules in the app.
Daruma Tech co-founder Rob Kennedy said this model can make quality apps affordable and accessible for other museums and non-profits. “Non-profits need to stay relevant, but they have to be careful with their budgets,” Kennedy said. “Our model gives them access to a first-rate app that can also help them grow. We consider this a win for everyone.”