UAF TechFest teaches students about new technologies

Ivan Kvapil/Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 15, 2013

For the past seven years, UAF has hosted TechFest, a two day event that showcases the technologies that OIT uses and shows how they are integrated into our classes to not only enhance learning, but to better the UAF experience. Free stuff was given away including T-shirts and popcorn. Projectors and game systems were set up so people could play games such as Rockband and Halo 4.

The event also had lectures and panels on a wide variety of topics from learning about copyrights to learning how to use the new Apple operating system. Many vendors attended showing displays such as affordable 3-D printers and the newest Adobe programs. There was even a display of student-made digital art showing student’s achievements in things such as animation and photo editing. There were even some more offbeat lectures such as one by Hoodoo Brewery about the technology of brewing beer.

One of the panels was called “How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going” on Friday, October 11. It focused heavily on technology use in schools and the evolution of this technology over time. The panelists included professors from UAF and visiting professors who work closely with OIT. Speakers included Todd Schechter the Director of Information Technology at Oregon State University, and a former Alaskan high school graduate; Alan Levine, a teacher for Mary Washington University and Dr. Robert E. Whicker, who has been involved in Alaskan education for more than 34 years. The speakers covered topics such as the uneven distribution of technology and the future of distance learning with UAF.

The idea behind TechFest is that technology is changing so fast that people often see technology as a “mysterious black box,” and either become afraid of it, or resistant to change, according to Karl Kowalski, the Chief Officer for the Information Technology Office. The goal of TechFest is to show people that technology is not scary and that the IT people are friendly and helpful.

TechFest has helped educate people about different technologies, adding that each festival is different because technology is constantly changing so every year they have something new to talk about, Kowlaski said. This year, the event focused on technologies designed for mobile use, compared to the first year, which focused more on the infrastructure of OIT and how their servers operate along with how their tech operates and how it benefits UAF.

Kowalski mentioned that the most important part of TechFest was hearing student feedback. OIT exists to benefit students and if they have no idea what students want, then they’re stuck trying to figure it out for themselves. He encourages students to talk to OIT professionals if they have any problems or suggestions with the technology that is currently available, and that they should not be afraid to speak up if they have any ideas on how technology can benefit UAF.

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