Tuesday 25 June 2019

Wilder Wander App to get families out and about in County Wexford

Founder of Wilder Wander Vicky O’Donnell
Founder of Wilder Wander Vicky O’Donnell

Sara Gahan

A four-month-old Gorey-based company has created an app with the aim of getting people outdoors while raising awareness of nature and biodiversity through fun games and tours.

Wilder Wander is a free location-based app which takes raw scientific data and adds value to it by creating information for specific sites in county Wexford. These include walkways, urban parks or wilderness areas.

Vicky O'Donnell, founder of Wilder Wander, said Wexford County Council is supporting four games in Wexford which will be available in late July and August in Courtown Woods (starting at the entrance beside the playground), and a few other areas to be confirmed.

Once the Wilder Wander app has been downloaded from the App Store or Playstore, search for the games in that area. It will show a trail to follow. While following the trail, it will give information on creatures that live in the area, local knowledge and history, and ask a few questions to earn some points. The person with the highest score goes on top of the leaderboard.

In the coming months, more free games will appear in other locations around the country.

Vicki grew up on a farm in the Wicklow Mountains and loved the great outdoors and animals. When she left school, she studied zoology and animal behaviour at Trinity College, Dublin.

'Jobs in nature were scarce so I went back to college to study geo-informatics,' added Vicky.

She spent the next 13-years working in a maritime research in University College Cork. Vicky worked with data at all stages and, although the job was technical, the work was very applied so it was easy to see the value of data in decision making and the importance of data as currency.

In the summer of 2017, Vicky started a family tourism business and was in the planning stages when they heard about the Kilkenny Bank of Ireland TechStars startup weekend.

'I had a couple of ideas that had been going around in my head, mostly to do with mapping and the reuse of data,' said Vicky. 'So I pitched a gamifying scientific data idea and we won the weekend competition.'

She added it is really only because of the TechStars weekend, she is where she is today with Wilder Wander.

Vicky feels a lot of youngsters are quite disengaged from the natural environment. 'It is easier to get them outdoors and learning with a device in-hand,' added Vicky.

The first game which is due out in July uses thousands of biological datasets which were collected over the last decade by scientists and Vicky is gamifying this data to get people outdoors, exercising, competing, learning about the environment and having fun.

Once the app is downloaded, enable the GPS so that it can follow the games. It may make sounds and contains audio files, so turn the sound up or down.

Vicki said it will work without an internet connection or SIM card, just preload it while the device has a WIFI connection. Everything will work while offline.

She added should would like to thank Wexford County Council, Wexford LEO and Courtown Adventure and Leisure Centre for the support.

Gorey Guardian