When history professor Ronald Morris met with his State Parks II class for the first time this spring, the group of just two students exceeded his expectations.
Samantha Harsh, a graduated natural resources major, and Ashton Hampton, a senior telecommunications digital video production major, committed to continue this series of their immersive learning project by nearly tripling the work of their predecessors.
The State Parks I class of about five students designed and created the Indiana State Park History Tour smart phone app last year. Students worked with the Ball State's Building Better Communities and Digital Corps to create the app. Under the guidance of Morris, a Presidential Immersive Learning Fellow, and Indiana park rangers and interpreters, the app helps users find historical sites and landmarks and gives information of six of the 23 Indiana state parks.
With the support of the Ball State Provost Immersive Learning Grant, the class was allowed to continue to add more parks to the app. Harsh and Hampton agreed to continue the project until every Indiana state park had been added to the smart phone app.
“The students wanted to do it all,” Morris said. “I never would have dared to assign them that.”
He said this app is revolutionary to users because before its conception there was no way for casual visitors to learn the history of a park without taking a tour.
"Now you can choose your own tour instead of a park ranger choosing it for you," Morris said.
Once users download the app, available on Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, they can access anything from historical and contemporary photos, to hiking trail directions, to anecdotal information on historical sites. Additionally, while visiting Indiana state parks the app will give users a notification once they enter a historical site or landmark.
"We have locations and the opportunity for self-guided tours on our app that aren't on any other maps or guides," Harsh said.
And users aren't the only ones who benefit from the invention of the Indiana State Park History Tour app. The student app-designers explain that this project has offered them opportunities because of their unique experience.
This summer Hampton will be working at Camp Chinqueka in Connecticut as the chief photographer, webmaster and photography instructor.
"This project definitely aided my marketability," Hampton said. "[It] helped me strike the interest of my summer employers at the camp, and I know it will continue to serve as a positive representation of my work ethic and skill set."
After graduating this spring, Harsh is preparing for an internship at the Grand Canyon through the Natural Park Services.
"I got to work with a lot of rangers and interpreters and make professional connections because of this project," Harsh said. "The big thing right now is incorporating more tech from the visitor aspect."
Through historical curiosity and digital invention, the State Parks I and II classes have offered users the opportunity to be their own tour guide.
To download the app, see here.