Inspired To Tell Black History, Students Develop Our Stories CLT App
Published on April 21, 2023
Visitors to the Elmwood Pinewood Cemetery on April 15 were treated to a first look at a new mobile app called Our Stories CLT, an interactive augmented reality game designed by local students from historic Charlotte communities during a summer camp.
The app, created in collaboration between the City of Charlotte, Potions & Pixels, Gökotta, the Knight Foundation and Google Fiber, leads users through the cemetery as they uncover stories of individuals overlooked or nearly forgotten.
To celebrate launch day, youth who helped devise and develop the app were onsite eager to share their experience and assist users who were setting out on their virtual adventures. Two such teens were Jan Zytkow and Terryn Orr, friends from school who attended The Charlotte AR Experience camp where they toured stops along the Urban Arboretum Trail testing out various technologies.
“We noticed that a lot of the people that were buried here didn’t have headstones because they either couldn’t afford [them] or for other reasons,” said Zytkow about their first visit to the oldest public cemetery in the city. “A lot of people had interesting stories about their lives that we could tell so we wanted to really showcase that.”
Jenny Vallimont, the owner of Gökotta and an organizer of the summer camp where the app concept was dreamt up and the content was created, was also on-hand for the launch.
“By day two, day three, [the students] were stoked,” she said. “By day five, we had kids who were like “What do you mean this is a one-week camp? We want to come back next week!””
Two Charlotte residents who were experimenting with the game and exploring the rolling green space, Miles White and Serena Brantley, had heard about the app launch from the Charlotte SHOUT! festival website and were intrigued enough to attend.
“I really like the idea of it because there was a big craze with augmented reality and getting kids to be more active, so I think it was a cool idea to combine that with history…so it gets that educational experience while mixing it with recreation,” said Brantley, as she paused near one of the many large trees that gives Elmwood Pinewood its serene and shady atmosphere. “There is always more stuff that you don’t know about, and I think it’s really cool that these stories are being told.”
Brantley and White weren’t the only attendees to recognize the significance of the app and its commitment to honoring Black history. According the Vallimont, one app user was brought to tears as he journeyed through the game and uncovered pieces of history. A testimony to the power and importance of stories and history.
“At the summer camps, parents shared with us how impactful this camp was not just for their teens, but also for them,” said Rachel Stark, program manager for the city’s Smart Cities program. “From learning their own community’s history, to connecting to new career paths, to being part of shaping something that would be built for others to appreciate, parents were giving this experience an A-plus.”
For more information about the cemetery, visit the Historic Elmwood Pinewood Cemetery website.
Download the Our Stories CLT app at the iPhone app store or the Google Play store.