Student makes iPhone app for spelling

Student shows off his iPhoneIt's tough to remember the exact spelling of words during cram sessions, after staring at a computer for hours on end. Rather than wasting those last minutes, which prove precious to college procrastinators, wracking your brain -- find the correct spelling by typing the tricky word into your phone, just as it sounds in your head.

Clark Rinker, a computer science major at Evergreen State College, used his knowledge of technology to assist struggling students through the creation of the iPhone application, the American Wordspeller and Phonetic Dictionary.

The iPhone app, based off of Diane Frank's book, which she created for her dyslexic daughter, Gabby, Gabby's Wordspeller, converts phonetic spelling to proper spelling. It allows users to search for words by the way that they sound, rather than their actual spelling.
Here's a short video of what the app looks like:

The application consists of two dictionaries. One has the standard spelling of words, along with a brief definition. Rinker said that the definitions are as concise as possible because their purpose is to differentiate between phonetic spellings rather than provide a vast amount of content.

The second dictionary, the phonetic one, converts how words sound to their standard spelling. It takes into account different spelling possibilities. For example, the word "aback" connects with both "iback" and "abak." Rinker quotes his grade school teachers when he refers to phonetic words as "creative spelling."

The application aims to aid more than forgetful minds. It offers a helpful solution to those struggling with dyslexia. The American Wordspeller and Phonetic Dictionary will also assist iPhone users for whom English is a second language. "Let's face it. English is pretty bizarre and yet it's so widespread," said Rinker. "What if we could break down the barriers between us [those who speak English as a second language and those who speak it as their first] with a $3 app?"

The tech guru formed a database of words in one week and took another week to convert the database into an iPhone application. He used Apple's developer suite, Xcode, to write the codes for the American Wordspeller and Phonetic Dictionary. He then participated in meetings to decide on the final look of the product

Rinker hopes to make some fast cash off of his summer project. The application will sell for $3 in Apple's app store, where users can download the phonetic dictionary onto an iPhone or iPod Touch. Rinker makes 20% of digital sales, which evens out to 41 cents per download.

If his creation flops, Rinker's RA job and his college grants have his bills covered. He sees this as a huge advantage for any student pursing a career before graduation. "As entrepreneurs at the college level, we have a unique opportunity [in] that we carry little baggage that would hold us back out in the real world," said Rinker. "If anything goes wrong with this iPhone app, I'll go to class Monday morning, the same as any other day."
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