A smartphone app, developed by academics at the University of Salford and Lancaster University to help parents monitor their children on ‘walking buses’ to school, has won an award and £10,000 prize from Research Councils UK.
Walking school buses, which consist of a group of children walking to school while being looked after by a number of adults, have become more common across the UK since being introduced in Hertfordshire in 1998. The aim of the walking school bus is to reduce road congestion, encourage physical exercise, increase children's road safety awareness and address the concerns of parents who are reluctant to let their children walk to school on their own.
To encourage parents and children to use walking buses, psychologist Dr Sarah Norgate of the University of Salford and computer scientist Professor Nigel Davies from Lancaster University created a smartphone app for parents called ‘goWSB’.
The app, to be released to the public in February 2015, allows registered parents to visually track the walking school bus on a map as it leaves its starting point, travels along its scheduled stops and reaches the school. This allows parents to see their child’s movements in real time and ease any fears they may have for their child’s safety.
The academics worked closely with parents, walking school bus coordinators, head teachers and local authorities in Greater Manchester to develop the project, which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Earlier this month goWSB won the Research Council UK Digital Economy Telling Tales of Engagement competition and was awarded a £10,000 prize. The prize money will be used to raise awareness of the results of the project and encourage people to download and use the app.
The development of goWSB comes as part of the wider Sixth Sense Transport project between the University of Salford, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Edinburgh and Bournemouth University. The Sixth Sense Transport project aims to develop apps that will encourage more sustainable travel options.
Discover more about the walking bus app at www.gowsb.com.