App makes users Washington State Insiders

Man who helped develop program for students visits Fort Vancouver with family

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Insider information

 The free Washington State Insider app is available through the iOS app store for iPhones and at Google Play for Android.

You might have heard about this new mobile game, in which people use smartphones to hunt down their targets.

Probably not, though.

The targets identified by this app include a haunted hospital and the breeding ground of an atomic bomb. This list features almost 100 historic sites in Washington. And on Tuesday, the Fry family checked Fort Vancouver off its list.

“Long before Seattle emerged as the big hub in Washington, this was the center of activity,” Tim Fry said.

Tim and Kristine Fry and their children, Henry and Ruby, are near the halfway point of their two-month road trip around the state.

The Frys are residents of Lopez Island — one of the San Juan Islands — where Tim Fry proposed the project for a friend’s middle-school history class. Dubbed the Washington State Insider app, it gave Anthony Rovente’s eighth-graders a chance to develop the content for the application.

“It’s hard to get kids interested in history,” Fry said. “I tossed out the idea of a history app for Washington state. The curriculum was formatted around content the kids would put into the history app. They submitted descriptions, photos and GPS coordinates, as long as they could make a case for Washington state history.”

The school project is an offshoot of Fry’s professional field.

“My background is marketing and communications. I make mobile apps for destination communities. Last spring, San Juan County hired me to build one,” Fry said. When he considered its suitability for a school project, “This is kind of a natural,” Fry realized. “They’re built on the exact same platform.”

The family’s 2,000-mile road trip combines the commercial and educational aspects of Fry’s work. He was planning to spend the summer on the road, meeting with visitors bureaus and chambers of commerce around the state.

“Since I was traveling anyway on business, we took the family in a motor home,” he said.

The Frys aren’t just doing drive-bys as they cross places off the list.

“I’m interviewing people who run different historical museums, and locals who know the little-off-the-beaten-paths of their history,” he said.

A couple of people shared some local lore at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Fry learned that tobacco leaves were packed along with precious furs to kill vermin during the long voyage back to England.

Nine-year-old Henry wanted to see the blacksmith shop, where volunteer Al Lindholm explained the workings of a beaver trap. Henry triggered the trap, poking it with a stick that represented a beaver’s foot.

Earlier in their journey, Tim Fry toured the old St. Ignatius Hospital in Colfax, built in 1893 by the Sisters of Providence.

“It is reportedly haunted,” he said. “It’s abandoned; it’s run down: It looks like a haunted hospital. The town has realized that it’s a good money-maker.

“At the Hanford Reach museum in Richland, we got a good look at creation of the Hanford Nuclear Site: its roles during World War II and the Cold War, and the cleanup,” he said.

Ruby, 7, called a stop in the North Cascades one of her highlights: “I liked the smokejumper base near Twisp.”

For Kristine, the trip is a chance to see most of the state’s historic attractions for the first time with her son and daughter.

“I grew up in Nebraska,” she said.

If the family’s summer vacation sounds a bit like another app-based quest, well …

The “Pokemon Go” game “is a somewhat similar concept,” Tim Fry said, “but this is the real world.”

However, there is no law that says a family can’t do both.

“We were at Ice Harbor Dam, checking out the Snake River,” Tim said. “The kids were getting Pokemon.”