The Winners’ Circle
The Apple Design Award finalists meet the event’s youngest developers.
The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is all about premiering new technology, promoting innovation, and showing off new creations. It’s also an amazing place to connect. We paired a few winners of the Apple Design Awards with students who received a WWDC19 Scholarship and asked them to share insights. Here are some excerpts from those conversations:
Both scholarship winner Anirban Kumar and ADA winner Philip Lam got the idea for their apps on the basketball court. Kumar’s scorekeeping app, Basketball Keeper, tracks baskets, rebounds, assists, and more, while Lam’s HomeCourt uses AR to provide live stats and feedback.
“I looked you up on the store,” Lam says to Kumar. “You’re much farther ahead than me. You’ve got five apps on there.”
“Yeah, but they’re not as good,” laughs Kumar.
Lam marvels that Kumar, 19, has so much more experience than he did at that age. “I didn’t get a computer until I was 15, so for me every step came a little later,” Lam says. “I didn’t start my career until I was about 25.”
But how old you are doesn’t really matter, adds Lam. “When I felt something through passion in my heart, I’ve been able to go for it, no matter what age I was. That almost always turns out well. But you’ve got a head start.”
Luke Holland’s ADA-winning game, Ordia, is a one-finger platformer that finds you flinging a primordial protagonist through a richly rendered landscape. Scholarship winner Hugo Lispector’s rocket-based game, Aster, makes similar use of gravity and physics.
“I wanted to make a gravity-based space adventure, similar to Angry Birds Space,” says Lispector, 22. “I came up with the idea of gravity and rockets, and started learning SpriteKit. But I didn’t think it would be anything. It was just for fun, for my friends. I still can’t believe it came all the way here.”
That starts Holland thinking back to his earlier, smaller endeavours. “With personal projects, I’d have really big ambitions. I’d see games I loved and say, ‘I want to make that game,’” he says. “But that becomes daunting very quickly.”
The most important thing, Holland says, is to see a project through to completion, as Lispector has. “I missed out on a lot of stuff by not getting to that finish line. Test it, get it to the finish, and then think bigger for the next project.”
Simonas Bastys of Pixelmator praises scholarship winner Rishav Kumar right off the bat. “Your app has more functionality than ours,” he says, referring to Kumar’s free photo editor, InstantShot.
Kumar got a head start on the App Store. “I published my first app when I was 15,” he says.
Bastys whistles. “I was just learning to program at 15.”
“When I made InstantShot, I was fascinated by filters, but the apps would ask for a payment,” Kumar says. “I wanted to make a free app so everyone could get basic features.”
Bastys put Kumar’s app to the test. “I tried to crash your app, that’s kind of how I test, because if it’s a good product it shouldn’t crash, right? Yours didn’t crash. And I tried really hard.”
Movers and Shakers
Christian Baumgartner and the rest of the team behind the ADA-winning game ELOH flew over from Vienna, but scholarship winner Sidney Hough, 17, had a much shorter trip. She drove 20 minutes from nearby Saratoga, California, where she’s going into her senior year of high school.
“I’ve been coding since I was 11. I liked the problem-solving part of it. And with the sheer amount of people who have mobile technology and the frequency with which they use it, I thought it would be a great way to access a large user base,” she says.
Baumgartner’s ELOH has you solving puzzles while creating a rich, organic rhythm in the process. Hough’s scholarship application included a music theory app. “Basically, I created a visualization of chord progressions,” she says. Her previous work includes the sleep tracker Slumberbug, which also lightly gamifies relaxation.
When asked about her coding challenges, Hough just laughs. “I don’t mind too much—it’s fun to crank through those problems. How do you manage that?” she asks Baumgartner.
“I usually go for a walk in the forest with my dog,” Baumgartner says. “Failing is just an opportunity to learn.”