MEET THE DEVELOPER

A Kindred Spirit

John Ciocca’s apps serve immediate and extended family alike.

John Ciocca is a winner of Apple’s WWDC18 Scholarship, awarded to talented students and members of organizations that promote science, technology, engineering, or math.

Eighteen-year-old developer John Ciocca gets a lot of inspiration from his brother, Christian, who has Down syndrome, and his father, a special-education teacher. After the family relocated from New Jersey to Florida a few years ago, he created a social network app for exceptional people and their loved ones called youBelong.

“We used it a lot with my brother’s friends, so he could connect with them,” said Ciocca, who is studying software engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University.

We spoke with Ciocca about teaching himself how to code and why newbies should push through the challenges.

John Ciocca’s MyVoice—Tap or Type to Talk allows people to communicate by tapping an image in the app.

What got you into coding?
I’m self-taught. It started over one summer back in 2012. I’d wake up before my parents, and I started checking out website tutorials and online resources. I thought, “Can I build some stuff like my friends and I are playing on our phone?”

What was most intimidating about it?
Not having anybody teach it to me. And back then, not many people knew what was going on. Going online helped; a lot of YouTubers had tutorials. But I had to explore, for sure.

What do you find most rewarding about coding?
My brother has Down syndrome, and my dad works in special education. The ideas for my apps came from them, and seeing my apps help so many people is really rewarding.

My brother has Down syndrome, and my dad works in special education. The ideas for my apps came from them, and seeing my apps help so many people is really rewarding.

What activities is coding most similar to?
Sports, because you definitely need to practice. But there’s a lot of math involved.

What advice do you have for students who are just getting into coding?
Go for it. If you can stick with it through the hard parts, you can make some great things and really make a difference. And it’s definitely worth it, because this is what’s up and coming.

What problem would you love to solve with technology?
My main one is that people with special needs aren’t as accepted online. It’s something I’m trying to address with my app—it’s a place you can connect where everybody has something in common, everybody’s welcome.

    MyVoice- Tap or Type to Talk

    All-in-One AAC

    VIEW

    youBelong

    The safe social network

    VIEW

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