ZooTampa has a new way to teach empathy and connect your children to animals through a medium kids know best—technology!
Wildlife Explorer Quest by TRAKID is an app that connects with a Smart Compass watch. You can pick up at Guest Services to upgrade your day. It’s essentially a digital scavenger hunt that will teach you and your child fun facts about the animals as the Smart Compass guides you through the zoo.
We tried it out with Johanna Sanchez, founder of @localmombox, mom of three and a former teacher. Keep reading to see what her thoughts are! But first, we want to walk you through what to expect as you book this unique adventure for the kids.
Before You Go to ZooTampa
- Visit zootampa.org and head to the Upgrade Your Day section to rent your Smart Compass watch in advance. It’s $9.99 for ZooTampa members and $11.99 for non-members. You can also book one on the day of your visit at guest services.
- You’ll also want to download the TRAKID app, which is available on Android and iOS devices, to help speed up the process.
When you get to ZooTampa
Head over to the guest services kiosk to the right of Manatee Circle when you first walk in. This is where you will pick up the Smart Compass and pair it with the TRAKID app to get the game started.
Once activated, follow the instructions on the app. See which direction the LED lights on the Smart Compass are pointing you and head that way.
On the Quest!
Because the entire park is geo-mapped, the Smart Compass will point you in the direction of the animal you’re closest to and beep to alert you when you’ve reached your destination.
Remember, Wildlife Explorer Quest is…a quest! It’s an interactive game, so at each animal exhibit, the app will ask questions to teach you some fascinating facts about the animals. At the Sulawesi Babirusa exhibit, for example, you might learn that the wild relative of the pig is nocturnal and that warty pigs have very active social lives, living in family groups of up to 12. You can earn badges on the app as you continue the quest.
Anna Torres, head of customer success with TRAKID, tells us it is important that kids are learning as they play. It was the reason the program was developed in conjunction with ZooTampa.
“ZooTampa has so many great conservation efforts that they actively support,” Torres says. “Bringing that knowledge and awareness to their guests and the entire zoo industry is something we really wanted to do.”
Sanchez loved that her boys got excited as they worked their way to each new exhibit on their quest.
“This has great content for kids,” Sanchez said. “It’s interactive. There are questions you can ask the kids at each animal exhibit and what’s also great, it keeps the kids moving and going.”
Factoring in snack and bathroom breaks, the quest will take about three hours to complete. Once you’ve completed the mission, be sure to return the Smart Compass to guest services. It’s just a rental, but the memories and new appreciation for the Zoo and its animals? That you can keep forever.
We also had a chance to chat with the team at TRAKID to learn more about the program. Here’s our conversation with Anna Torres.
Tell us about the TRAKID app—how does it work and why was it developed? What inspired it?
Anna Torres: TRAKID was developed to directly engage guests about the animals at ZooTampa in a new and fun way! With this program, the ZooTampa staff is able to create a quest and develop content at the push of a button. We were inspired by ZooTampa’s dedication to its animals and conservation efforts and wanted to creatively bring that information to the guests.
The TRAKID app is available on Android and iOS devices. It allows guests of ZooTampa to participate in the Wildlife Explorer Quest by giving them access to this exciting content about the animals. To play the game, a parent only has to download the app, rent the Smart Compass from ZooTampa and follow the instructions from there!
How does it work with the Smart Compass watches at ZooTampa?
Anna Torres: The Smart Compasses will pair with the TRAKID mobile app. Once they’re paired, the app will navigate all players to points in the park that we have geo-mapped. As you play, our Smart LEDs will point to the animal that is closest to you on the quest. It is your job to use the Compass and your navigational skills to find the animal’s exhibit in the zoo.
Why was it so important to introduce this interactive and educational element to ZooTampa?
Anna Torres: ZooTampa has so many great conservation efforts that they actively support. Bringing that knowledge and awareness to their guests and the entire zoo industry is something we really wanted to do.
How can parents make the most out of their experience with TRAKID at the Zoo?
Anna Torres: By participating as a family to find all the animals on the quest. Also, downloading the TRAKID app before coming onsite will help make the onboarding experience seamless. This way, they are able to start the quest almost immediately upon arrival.
Can they also use it at home? Are there other ways to use it other than at the Zoo?
Anna Torres: The Wildlife Explorer Quest is a game you can only play at ZooTampa. The Explorer Compasses are a rental device and cannot be taken home. However, the game will be available each time you visit ZooTampa!
Anything else you want to add?
Anna Torres: Working with ZooTampa to build empathy and connections to the animals has been incredibly rewarding. We’re thankful to have them as partners while we make this quest the best it can be at the zoo.
*Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.