With Apple’s WWDC 2023 conference taking this place this week, all eyes are on the tech giant and its slew of new software and hardware reveals. Alongside WWDC, the company has announced the winners of its Swift Student Challenge for 2023. This year, a total of six Canadians have won, with their success stories originating throughout the country.
As in other years, the Swift Student Challenge tasks student programmers to compete for a year-long membership to the Apple Developer Program. The students are asked to develop an interactive scene for the Apple Swift Playgrounds app, which needs to be experienced within three minutes. Of course, each scene is built using the Swift programming language.
Apple says the roster of winners is more diverse than ever before. Here’s a look at each of this year’s six Canadian winners, as well as their interactive scenes:
Daniel Francis, 16
Francis is from Gatineau, Quebec, and studies Software Engineering at the University of Ottawa.
The app experience he’s created is aimed at helping people learn Swift, with a key component being the drag-and-drop UI elements and its preview interface. “I wanted to build something for people who have never used a programming language and simply want to learn SwiftUI without being overwhelmed with new syntax,” Francis says.
Francis received his first iPad at the age of 10, discovering Swift Playgrounds not long after. He quickly fell in love with coding, citing its similarity to his childhood enjoyment of Lego.
He says Swift is his favourite programming language because of its ease of use and its ability to help him build user interfaces using SwiftUI.
Francis plans on continuing to polish his submission, with the aim of having it on the App Store by the end of the summer.
Martin Maly, 23
Maley is from Toronto, Ontario, and is in his final year of Computer Engineering at Queen’s University. He is currently on an exchange program at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.
Maley’s app playground is an attempt to gamify breathwork. The goal, he says, is to change the perception of what is often seen as a dull activity into something enjoyable. The microphone detects breathing, which allows the player to control an object as it moves through a pathway. Inhalation and exhalation allow the player to avoid various obstacles.
Maley has always been curious about alternative forms of human-computer interaction. “I believe technology can, and should, enhance the human experience,” he says. First experimenting with Swift five years ago, he used free online resources to become proficient in the coding language.
Maley plans on continuing to travel and broadening his perspective of the world. He has enjoyed his time in Tokyo and has spent a lot of time learning the Japanese language. He has also been busy catching up on side coding projects.
Ashish Selvaraj, 21
Selvarakj lives in Waterloo, Ontario and is studying Computer Science and Business Administration at the University of Waterloo.
Selvaraj’s app playground simulates the experience of writing assembly with a small subset of real MIPS assembly commands. For those unaware, MIPS is a processor architecture in the same vein as ARM. He says the idea of writing assembly using a smartphone is a neat one that he wanted to explore.
Selvaraj learned Swift and SwiftUI in January 2022. “I really liked SwiftUI. I always find drag-and-drop type UI builders very frustrating and being able to write interfaces in code felt amazing,” he says.
Selvaraj has previously released a Sudoku app on the App Store and plans to continue working on releasing additional apps in the future.
John Seong, 19
Seong lives in Oakville, Ontario, and is currently in his final year of high school. Upon graduating, he plans to study Psychology with a minor in Computer Science at UC Irvine.
Seong’s app playground serves as a visualization of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics. Essentially, the Principle explains that electrons exist in a “cloud-like state” around the nucleus of an atom rather than orbiting it like a planet would orbit the sun.
Seong grew up watching WWDC events from 2012 onwards, starting at the age of eight. Growing up alongside technology, he has become a passionate coder over time. “I have always been interested in computer science as it is a tool for me to express my thoughts and passion that are hard to convey using words,” he says.
Seong has applied for a software engineering internship role at Apple in Cupertino, and is planning to move to California in August.
Omar Sharar, 16
Sharar is a high school student living in Burnaby, British Columbia.
Sharar has created a mental health app that incorporates a book-like experience. It aims to teach the user about mental illness, as well as how to keep a healthy mindset. There are also deep breathing and diary sections designed to destress and reflect on the day.
Sharar says he’s had a great experience with Swift, using it to build his app while also increasing his knowledge surrounding the topic of mental health. “I find that it’s a clean language which you can optimize to write simple-looking yet effective code,” he says.
Sharar plans on refining and releasing his app onto the App Store. He also hopes to create a new app that “changes the way we interact with technology for learning and studying.”
Thanh ‘Zoey’ Nguyen Vu, 22
Vu lives in Waterloo, Ontario, and was born and raised in rural Vietnam. She currently studies Mathematics at the University of Waterloo.
Vu’s app playground looks to capture the peaceful and serene atmosphere of birds gracefully flying over a vibrant sunset. Soothing background music and a smooth bird flocking animation are used to create the calming environment.Vu was inspired to create her app out of a strong sense of nostalgia. “It draws from my childhood memories in Vietnam, where my brother and I would watch birds gracefully flying over the sunset-lit paddy fields,” she says.
Vu is currently serving as an API engineering intern at LinkedIn. She is also an aspiring indie iOS game developer, and hopes to channel her creativity through the App Store.
As always, it’s great to see Apple recognize the work and talent displayed by young Canadian students. The Swift programming language remains a go-to choice for many coders for use on projects both big and small.
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Image credit: Apple