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Award-winning app to help tourists breach language barriers during Pan Am Games

TORONTO - Four Sheridan College students have come up with an innovative idea to breach language barriers for non-English speaking visitors coming to Toronto for the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games.

The students are working on an app that will use a geo-tracking application to help foreign visitors connect in real time with Pan Ambassadors — local volunteers who speak their language.

Chau Le, Yee Ting Lee, Jason Smith and Leena Salem pitched the idea at Idea-A-Thon — a competition held at Sheridan College over the weekend and supported by Cisco Canada.

Cisco awarded their team — called The Fantastic Four — $10,000 to develop the app, which is set to launch in April 2015.

The app will have a map that shows the locations of all the local volunteers and tourists can zoom in on the dots and see their skills and what language they speak.

The students plan to advertise the app in major transit hubs such as Pearson International Airport and Union Station.

Whether the Pan Ambassadors will be wearing any distinguishing items of clothing or accessories has not yet been decided.

"We found the city of Toronto is really fragmented," said Salem, one of the app's designers.

"You're kind of stuck around Union, you're stuck around the big tourist attractions, but you don't really get to see Little Italy or Little Korea Town or anything like that, so we wanted to give people an authentic experience."

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