Staying safe during a night out? There’s an app for that.

LSA senior Steve Coffey is one of three students working to develop a “Stay in the Blue” mobile application in partnership with the University Health System’s alcohol safety program. Beta testing began March 15, and the app is expected to be available for download by the end of the semester.

Coffey previously worked with UHS on a project for Filmic Productions for the “Stay in the Blue” program, and thought the app would be a beneficial addition. He also contacted another Filmic Productions member, LSA senior Roddy Hyduk, to help with design and marketing.

“We’re interested in tying the message and the branding together because the whole goal of both pieces is to stay in the blue,” Coffey said.

Coffey said while he enjoyed making videos and doing other promotions for UHS, he’s excited for a tangible, interactive product.

The app, which is still in development, uses gender, weight, drink variety and drink quantity to calculate blood alcohol concentration over a given period of time.

Users open the application and are prompted to enter their weight and gender. They are then directed to a beer-bottle-shaped gauge that will monitor their drink intake.

LSA junior Jennifer Angell, who worked with Coffey on the project, said the idea started last fall when they were given the class assignment to develop a smartphone app.

Once the user hits “Start,” they can select from a list of drinks that ranges from wine and beer to local restaurant specialty drinks. Each time the user tells the app they’ve taken anothrer drink it ecalculates their BAC. As BAC increases, the gauge adjusts — beginning in the “blue,” moving into “the maize” and ultimately into “the red.” As time passes, the app will appropriately adjust the BAC level as alcohol dissipates.

The app also has a link to the ToDoInA2 website, as well as a list of names and phone numbers of six popular Ann Arbor cab companies. Angell said when it’s officially released, it will be free to download. She hopes it will be incorporated into the University’s existing smartphone application.

Nursing junior Shelby Epstine is one of the beta testers for the application. She used the app on Saturday and said she had a good experience.

“It would definitely be something that I would promote in the Greek community as a good way to have in your hand your level of alcohol and when you need to slow down, or when you are at a good pace,” Epstine said.

Angell and Coffey both said they are looking forward to getting feedback from the 30 beta testers over the next few weeks. They hope the app was used during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and that they will be able to make even more improvements in the weeks to come.

Hyduk said there is still a lot of work to be done with the interface design and marketing of the app, but he’s excited to continue perfecting the project.

Hyduk said he thinks in order for programs such as “Stay in the Blue” to be effective, students need to play an active role in their promotion.

“I think it’s important that students are involved in producing this content and delivering this messaging,” he said. “Without a student voice in this work, it’s really hard to drive home this kind of messaging.”

Hyduk added that he is glad to be a part of bringing this new smartphone app technology together with an important University program.

“I think this project is kind of the pinnacle of what a student could deliver for the program because it is so cutting edge,” he said.

Marsha Benz, an alcohol and other drug educator at UHS, initially helped to develop the “Stay in the Blue” campaign.
“I absolutely love it when students come to us,” Benz said. “The more students own ‘Stay in the Blue’ and make it their own, it’s going to get out to students better. It’s coming from students for students, and I think it is just brilliant.”

Charlotte Jenkins contributed reporting.

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