Smartphone app makes it easier for the Great Lakes Bay Region to learn about STEM programs

For the past few years, the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance spread the word about STEM programs via a paper passport. This week, though, the Alliance launched a smartphone app to give people electronic access to a robust schedule of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs throughout the region.

Lori Flippin, the Regional Alliance’s STEM Director, and says the STEM Passport app keeps people informed about events and opportunities at 19 different locations in the Alliance’s eight-county region.

The app is available through a link at stempipeline.com.

After you download the app, you’ll find links to activities at the Bay City State Park, Delta College Learning Center and Planetarium, Bay County Library System, on the nature trails, and more.

“There’s tons of things happening in the region all the time,” says Flippin, “It’s kind of overwhelming.”

To make the calendar less daunting, filter it according to venue or city. For example, Flippin explains by hovering over something such as the Chippewa Nature Center, you’ll see a map, details about specific events, and learn what age group different activities are targeting.

“It’s a wealth of resources that would be able to be accessed through the entry point of the app,” Flippin says.

The app, which will be available soon in the App Store and on Google Play, was developed by mid-Michigan native Thomas Hunter II. Hunter, who now lives in California, graduated from Bullock Creek High School and attended Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University.

Flippin says the app is part of a new business venture for Hunter. She says it’s exciting to help a former local STEM student launch one of his first projects.
Before the app, the Alliance communication information about STEM programs and events through a paper passport. When COVID-19 struck, there was no good way to distribute the passports. For about two years, the Alliance relied on PDFs to communicate what was happening with the different venues.

The new web app gives more students access and allows the Alliance to track user activity.

“We’re looking forward to being able to see where people are going and to then have better data on usage of the app and attendance at various different events. Sometimes it’s difficult to track what’s going on with all of our different partners across eight counties,” says Flippin.

Although there were some 55,000 users taking advantage of the passport program in the past, there was no way to track actual usage.The app makes that easier.

“The other thing we wanted was the mobile nature of it. People are out and about, and want to do something, so this will allow them to just pull out their phone, see what’s available around them,” Flippin says.

Flippin says the calendar of events changes every day, and the app will be easier to update. She says on any given day, the 19 organizations run as many as 40 different activities.

The app is not only a win for the Alliance, but also for the partner organizations.

“Many of our partners don’t have a marketing or communications person because they’re small organizations, so this is a service that the Alliance provides to the region to compile all these activities.”

Over the winter break from school, Flippin says the Alliance will promote different ways to use the app and help people access it through the website. Next year, they’ll step up efforts to get people to download and use the app.

“We’re giving people time over the holidays to navigate in the app and start to scope out what they could possibly do and get the app onto their phone,” Flippin says. “In 2022, what we hope to do is have a scavenger hunt where we send people to different places, or challenge them to go to different places, and that will allow them to be entered into a drawing.”

Also in 2022, the app will be featured at the 2022 STEM Convening in Bay City. Read more about the international conference in this Sept. 16 Route Bay City article.

To access the STEM Passport, go to stempipeline.com, click the Out of School dropdown and then click the STEM Passport for instructions on downloading the app.