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Penn State student looks to grow arts festival app

Harry Robinson hopes that what started as a Web app for Wi-Fi users at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts five years ago will boom into a popular smartphone app.

Robinson, a graduate student majoring in information sciences and technology at Penn State, has worked on a mobile app for this year’s festival that has the schedule of events, sidewalk sale information, social features to see what other people are doing, the ability to set alarms for when a performance is about to start and more.

“These are all features that we are pretty used to now,” Robinson said. “But a few years ago, we were interested in Wi-Fi and what mobile computing could become. We were only just then coming up with ways to determine someone’s location, leaving a comment tagged to a specific event.”

Arts Fest, Robinson said, was a good opportunity “to explore ways for us to think about what we could do for mobile computing.”

Twenty people used the first Web app that Robinson and several other students designed. Two years ago, they finally reached triple digits. Now, they’re hoping to reach into the hundreds, maybe even 1,000 users, though they aren’t sure if it’s a realistic goal.

“We like to do design work, but we are bad marketing people,” Robinson said.

This year, for the first time, he said, there will be an ad for the app in the official arts festival program guide and a booth on South Allen Street.

“This is the most together marketing we’ve done,” Robinson said.

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