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You're never too young - or too old - to develop apps

Alvin R. Cabral/California
Filed on June 7, 2017
Top (L-R) Amanda Southworth with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Masako Wakamiya, Gaby Ecanow. Mid (L-R) Yuji Sasaki, Riana Karim, Philipp Zakharchenko, Neel Sarwal, Bot (L-R) Leo Vallet, Emirhan Erdogan, Beatriz Magalhaes, and Yuma Soerianto.

One has 10. Another has 82.

No, that's not the number of apps they've made - it's the number of years they put in their 'age' column.

Before Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference officially kicked off at the San Jose Convention Centre on Monday, there was a little pre-event showcase on Sunday, which featured students - plus one not-so-young learner of the tech game - who flaunted their works of technological art and creativity.

It's actually the student developer showcase. The average age is 23.4 years, but that figure only got inflated because one of them was an 82-year-old woman who showed off her tech skills as if she were a teenager; take her age out and the average is 16.1 years - a very young group - including a 10-year-old - that is the future of innovation. (At last year's WWDC, though, there was a little Indian girl who was nine years old.)

The WWDC Scholarships are awarded to students and STEM organisation members with the opportunity to attend this year's five-day conference. They use Apple's Swift programming platform to develop their apps.

At this year's WWDC, the scholarship recipients represent 38 countries and 14 STEM organisations - both records to date.

Khaleej Times spoke with them to find out what makes them tick. They may come from different backgrounds and have various inspirations, but one thing is evident: truly, it is never too early or too late to learn something new, something that can contribute significantly.

Yuji Sasaki from Japan, 17

The self-taught developer started coding when he was 11. He's the one who's been into developing for eight years. His new app, 'Sumou', is a game of the traditional Japanese sport sumo wrestling. And being the sub-chief of his school's mathematical science club, he teaches the youngsters in his community to code.

"I have always liked making things. Making programs seem to be inspiring; the [app] development environment is for us amateurs - it's no different from professionals. It seems I have infinite possibilities to make the things I like."

Riana Karim from the US, 17

The high school senior's interests is in human health, so she created a Web-based app to collect and analyse data on the geographic prevalence of autism. For her efforts, she was recently recognised by the Society of Women Engineers and the National Center for Women in Technology. Right now, she's busy developing an app regarding the stars and constellations.

"Personally, I think the biggest challenge I had was not feeling qualified enough... to sort of combat that, I found a lot of resources online; you can learn a lot of things online, whether it be technical skills or anything else. A lot of online videos and documentations are available online... and there are companies that you can reach out to."

Philipp Zakharchenko from Russia, 16

He believes that design is very crucial for something to be engaging. His app, 'Deadliner', allows you to track and manage your deadlines, events and meetings, set goals and even create milestones. He learned coding at 12 with Visual Basic, but Swift totally changed him; within a week of learning the platform, he was able to make his first to-do list app.

"I'm excited because I feel that I can do something for this world - something that will help other people to do their everyday tasks... I really hope I can continue on my career in software development."

Gaby Ecanow from the US, 17

She has her own business - EcaKnow Games - the motto of which is so fitting: 'It's never to early to start coding!' Through a combination of self-teaching and online methods, she was able to learn C#, Python and Jave at the end of her sophomore year. She showcased her latest app, which can be so familiar to practically everyone - 'RoShamBo TicTacToe'.

"I believe that anyone can code as long as you put the time and the effort and you really believe in yourself. Anyone can pick it up; really shoot for the stars because your apps can change the world."

Beatriz Magalhaes from Brazil, 21

Learning that she had diabates at the tender age of 13 inspired her to come up with 'Diapets', an app that helps kids with Type-1 diabetes learn how to deal with their treatment with the help of a cute dragon. The digital media design student from Rio de Janeiro has been coding for two years and is very active in promoting the human side of technology.

"[Diapets] is a very personal project for me. I've always wanted to do something [about diabetes], so it's great that app development gives me this power to change things that matter to me and I think that everyone can change something very personal that matters to them - just by coding."

Neel Sarwal from the US, 17

Hailing from Dallas and with Indian roots, he began coding after receiving an iPod Touch for his 11th birthday, getting curious on how apps were developed. He currently has four games on the App Store - plus two more games and an app in the works for his startup.

"It's really easy to get into developing - even if you're super young or super old."

Amanda Southworth from the US, 15

The Los Angeles-based teen is concerned about your safety. Anxiety attack? She's got something for you: 'anxietyhelper', a mental health tool that gives you advice based on research about depression, anxiety and panic attacks. It also provides hotlines in cases of emergency, including police, hospitals and even shelter. Her other app - 'Verena' - which is for the LGBTQ community, meant to help them feel safe in times of emergency. Oh, and she began coding when she was 11.

"This app is here to help you, because the world can be sad and people need help, so this app can help people in a very significant way."

Leo Vallet from France, 20

Looking for a 'Flappy Bird' remake? The teen from Lyon has it for you on the App Store. Nowadays, he aims to solve the perennial problem of parking with 'ParkMatch', which is still under development, but looks really promising. Currently, he has over 20 iOS apps, and has been coding for over four years.

"I'd like to use technology and apps to help people out so they won't have problem when they park their vehicle... to create a win-win situation for everyone."

Emirhan Erdogan from Turkey, 19

After attending last year's WWDC, he founded his own firm, Appyist. Not only that, he also designed a six-week 'Hello iOS' course to help introduce people to the platform - the success of which led to founding TurkishKit, a monthly event for students interested in developing software for the Apple ecosystem.

"Coding is simple; it doesn't take too much time. My suggestion to students is to start learning how to code and design for mobile apps... it's never been easier."

Yuma Soerianto from Australia, 10

The youngest of this year's group taught himself how to code when he was only six years old, and at present he has four apps on the App Store. His dream: "Teaching the world how to code." And he has his own YouTube channel - 'Anyone Can Code' - so it's safe to say he's well on his way to fulfilling his dream.

"It's really fun to do this and I believe that even if you're very young you have the chance to make something that's really useful and make a difference."

Masako Wakamiya from Japan, 82

Yes, you read that right: 82 years old. She's walking and breathing proof that it's not too late for anything - especially in a technology-driven age she may have not imagined when she was the age of those she was with at the showcase. She's not a scholarship recipient, but is the oldest attendee. Her app, 'Hinadan', is a game that promotes the Japanese culture.

"I don't see age as a hindrance to develop apps... and it even makes me feel younger."

-alvin@khaleejtimes.com

 


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