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Abby Kallas, graphic designer; Carl Berwald, content developer; and Sean Breid, programmer; are three of the five students who will show their new German Grammar Guide app at Techfest.  

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Kallas will present the draft app design at Techfest.


People are always searching for the latest in technology, and this year Techfest 2012 is one of the best places to see new developments. UMD’s celebration of technology is back this year in the Kirby Student Center Ballroom from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, March 23.

At Techfest, the UMD community showcases their newest innovations to the public. The fair strives to find original ideas that aid and enrich learning or eliminate a barrier to education. This year the schedule includes over 65 people in 25 booths presenting technical material, forums, class projects, and many new computer applications.

A new language app, the German Grammar Guide, will make its debut at Techfest. Created by four faculty members and six students, all with varied skills and levels of involvement, the app replaces and goes beyond a textbook grammar guide that is now out of print.

Dan Nolan and Mike Mullins, both from the Department of German Studies collaborated with Mariana Waisman, of the Department of Graphic Design, and Pete Willemsen, of the Department of Computer Science. In fall 2011, students from all three disciplines joined the project through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

Abby Kallas is the sole graphic designer on the project. "I never designed an app before so this was a great experience for me," said Kallas. "It's a major trend in the digital world right now and I'm glad I've had the opportunity to get involved." Kallas wasn't able to start exactly when she was supposed to. "They sent me pencil sketches of all of the layouts. But all of the words were in German."

Sean Breid and Yan Jiang are the programmers. "Yan and I had to do the coding together," Breid said. "I mean together, as in sitting right next to each other working on the code." The new environment was the toughest part of the assignment. "Programming on a handheld device is so foreign, it's hard to get used to. The best part was seeing it actually work," he said.

Carl Berwald and Dana Lindaman are the content developers, which involves a working knowledge of both English and German. Berwald, who watches the news in German, has a strong background in grammar and language construction. It's proving to be an asset for the project. "The app is actually expanding what the book was able to do," he said. "Because the app is interactive, you can click on words to get more information than on any one page in the book." Berwald will finish out his senior year next year and hopes to see the project through its introduction to the general public.

UMD is gaining access to a suite of new Google computer software with the help of ITSS staff Aaron Caveny and Peter Angelos. Participants at Techfest will be introduced to a whole new world of Google offerings: Google Chatter and Google Hangout to name two. Among the many offerings, Career Services will present the benefits of using social media with "Like Your Future: Using Social Media on a College Campus," and the Multimedia Hub will present a variety of student projects. The Education Department will present "Using iPads and iPods in Education," and the School of Fine Arts will present "Glensheen Historical Archives Converted to Digital Media."

The public is invited to the event and all can enter to win several prizes including an Apple TV 1080p, an iPod Nano, and an iPod Shuffle.

For more information on Techfest, contact Sheri Pihlaja at 218-726-6975 or email

Written by Cheryl Reitan, Maeggie Licht, and Zach Lunderberg, March 2012

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