June 3, 2022
Apple’s WWDC22 Swift Student Challenge winners help communities through coding
Every year, in the lead-up to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, young people from around the globe use Swift Playgrounds to showcase their coding skills. This year, as part of the Swift Student Challenge, they include submissions from first-time participants Jones Mays II, Angelina Tsuboi, and Josh Tint.
All three teens are harnessing the power of coding to create apps that help solve problems in their communities — and are among more than 350 students from 40 countries and regions who have been selected as 2022 challenge winners.
The Swift Student Challenge is just one part of WWDC22, along with the keynote, events, labs, and workshops available online and free to the over-30-million-strong global Apple developer community. And when programming begins on June 6, Mays, Tsuboi, and Tint will be among those tuning in for the latest technologies, tools, and frameworks to help them build on their already impressive coding skills to create the next generation of groundbreaking apps.
When Jones Mays II, 17, designed his winning Swift Playgrounds submission, an app called Ivy, he found inspiration in his own roots.
“My grandfather had a garden that he loved, and he grew so much food that he just allowed people from the community to come in and grab what they needed,” said Mays, who is about to start his senior year of high school in Houston, Texas. “Even though he couldn’t walk at the end of his life, he used to point and that’s where I’d put down the seeds for him. But we always had to try to get rid of the kudzu vine — it was an ongoing fight.”
And so Mays decided to create an app that honored his grandfather, who passed away a few years ago, by helping other gardeners identify and get rid of invasive plants like kudzu.
“I’ve just really enjoyed being able to build programs that are able to display my creativity and passion in a fun and easy way,” said Mays. “Swift has been a big part of that — I discovered it about a year ago and I love how easy it is to use.”
This summer, Jones is going to be helping others learn programming languages like Swift.
“I’ll be teaching the next generation of students what it means to learn computer science,” said Mays. “Because I truly believe that when you’re able to learn computer science, you are able to apply that to so many other fields.”
It’s no surprise to Mays that teaching has become part of his journey — he comes from a long line of educators. They include his mother, brother, and his late grandfather, who Mays thinks would approve of the app created in his honor.
“He was a man of few words,” said Mays. “But I think he’d say, ‘Squirt, you did a good job.’”
When it comes to tackling problems, 16-year-old Angelina Tsuboi, who lives in Redondo Beach, California, can’t pick just one.
In addition to her winning Swift Playgrounds submission that teaches the basics of CPR, she also helped build a prototype that monitors air quality, created a website to help search and rescue organizations, and designed a school communication program that won the Congressional App Challenge in her district.
“Life is riddled with problems — everyone is struggling with at least one thing,” said Tsuboi. “And programming filled me with this sense of hope. It gave me a way to help identify problems that people in my community or my friends were facing and use my skill set to help them.”
The project that’s closest to her heart is an app called Lilac, which she launched on the App Store in March.
“My mom is a single mother and she’s from Japan,” said Tsuboi. “When she came here, she had problems with the language, so I made an app where you can find resources such as childcare or housing or grant opportunities, and translators in the community to help you connect with them.”
That sense of service permeates everything that Tsuboi does and keeps her searching for new projects to tackle.
“Helping others helps you remain humble and connected to your community,” said Tsuboi. “It makes the world seem like a nicer place and fills me with a sense of joy — I’m able to at least do one thing that helps relieve the chaos in the world.”
Josh Tint loves words. The 19-year-old from Tucson, Arizona just finished his freshman year at Arizona State University and is focusing his studies on linguistics — specifically lavender linguistics, which is the study of the language used by the LGBTQ+ community.
For his winning Swift Playgrounds, Tint designed an app that enables people who are questioning their gender identity to try different pronouns.
“An algorithm will insert different pronouns into pieces of sample text,” said Tint. “You can swipe through the sample text — left or right to indicate whether you like it or not — to get a feel for whether you think a certain gender pronoun matches your identity.”
The inspiration for the app came from Tint’s own journey.
“I’ve questioned my gender identity and so I know there aren’t many resources out there to help with that,” said Tint. “So I wanted to try to build a tool that I thought was more applicable to my experience and could help others, too. I wanted my app to help tell a story.”
Tint taught himself to code at the beginning of high school and designed an algorithm to dissect and build poems. He used it to enter a poem into the school poetry contest — and won.
He has since taught himself Swift and thinks it lends itself to his work in linguistics.
“I really like Swift’s natural language framework,” said Tint. “It’s really powerful and great for scripting — I’ve used it to build machine learning models to help analyze speech.”
In the future, Tint wants to use his knowledge of linguistics and programming to design algorithms that help mitigate bias.
“Right now, so much of the work done is only in a few languages, and it reflects the biases of the people who write it,” said Tint. “We should address those limitations and start building new models with more parameters and larger, more inclusive data sets. If we don’t include the stories of marginalized communities in those core processes right now, it’s going to be very difficult to undo that damage later.”
Apple is proud to support and uplift the next generation of developers, creators, and entrepreneurs through its annual WWDC student program. Over the past three decades, thousands of students have built successful careers in technology, founded venture-backed startups, and created organizations focused on democratizing technology and innovating to build a better future.
Katie Clark Alsadder
Apple Media Helpline