Every year, as part of its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple issues a challenge to students across the globe: create an original app playground using the Swift coding language. This year, Apple increased the number of winners from the 350 awarded in previous years to 375 so even more students could be included in the event and recognized for their artistry and ingenuity.
“We are amazed by the talent we see from the young developers who enter our Swift Student Challenge,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. “This year’s submissions demonstrated not only the next generation’s commitment to building tools that will improve our lives, but also a willingness to embrace new technologies and tools, and deploy them in original and creative ways.”
When WWDC23 kicks off June 5, the challenge winners will be among those attending virtually and in person to see the keynote, events, labs, and activities available this year to the global Apple developer community.
Their app playgrounds represent more than 30 countries and regions, and cover topics as varied as healthcare, sports, entertainment, and the environment. But there is one thing all of the winners have in common: They are using coding to share their passions with the world. For first-time winners Asmi Jain, Yemi Agesin, and Marta Michelle Caliendo, coding is an opportunity not only to forge a unique career path, but also to help others along the way.
While at Medi-Caps University in Indore, India, 20-year-old Asmi Jain found out her friend’s uncle had to undergo brain surgery. As a result, he was left with eye misalignment and facial paralysis.
Jain sprung into action, designing her winning playground to track a user’s eye movements as they try to follow a ball moving around the screen. The playground’s purpose is to help strengthen the eye muscles, and though it was inspired by her friend’s uncle, Jain hopes it can be used by people with a variety of eye conditions and injuries.
“It was important for me to create an app playground that could positively impact the lives of people like him,” says Jain. “My next goal is to get feedback and make sure it’s effective and user-friendly, and then release it on the App Store. Ultimately, I want to expand it so that it helps strengthen all of the muscles in the face, and I hope it can one day serve as a therapy tool that people like my friend’s uncle can use at their own pace.”
Jain’s desire to use coding to solve problems in the healthcare sector springs from many years spent volunteering to help those around her. Recently, she and a few other students created a forum at her university so that their classmates had a support system for working through tough coding problems.
“When you feel as though you’re part of something bigger, it motivates you and drives you to do better,” says Jain. “Coding lets me create things that help my friends and my community. And it gives me a sense of independence that is very empowering.”
For many young people, moving to different countries while growing up would be a burden, but 21-year-old Yemi Agesin saw it as a blessing. His family lived in Germany, Nigeria, Belgium, and England before returning to the United States when he was a teenager.
“You learn so much about the world when you move around,” says Agesin, who starts his final year at Kennesaw State University in Georgia this fall. “I think that really helps me because when I’m building things, I always try to consider and design for a wide range of perspectives.”
Agesin’s winning app playground is a first-person baseball game that alludes to two of his passions: sports and filmmaking. They foreshadow not only the next few months — he’s currently writing a film about a baseball player that he will produce this summer — but also his future goals.
“Coding gives me the freedom to feel like an artist — my canvas is the code editor, and my brush is the keyboard,” says Agesin. “For my next two projects, I’m designing a sports game where you compete against other players in real time in a team setting. And I’m also planning an app that will use augmented reality to help filmmakers visualize their graphics and effects while they’re shooting on iPhone.”
It’s no surprise that ARKit and RealityKit are what Agesin most looks forward to learning about when he attends WWDC23. He’s eager to add them to his growing toolbox and discover how they can help him transform his ideas into apps that make a difference.
“By using code, I can build worlds that people can use, and at the same time, build a career for myself that brings together my passions,” says Agesin. “I feel blessed and lucky that I live in a time and age where I can do that.”
Martz Michelle Caliendo
For 25-year-old Marta Michelle Caliendo, her passion for paleontology — the scientific study of life through fossils — isn’t so much about the past, as it is the future.
“Dinosaurs should be a constant reminder to all of us to preserve biodiversity,” says Caliendo, who is studying at the Apple Developer Academy in Naples while also pursuing a natural sciences degree at the University of Naples Federico II. “Coding helps me find new ways to express and share that message with others.”
Caliendo’s winning app playground is a memory game featuring anatomically correct pictures of dinosaur fossils that she drew in Procreate on iPad, made all the more impressive because she only learned Swift in September.
“My first experience with Swift was when I started at the academy, and it was beautiful because it was so intuitive and simple,” says Caliendo. “I really love this programming language because it lets me share a part of my personality through my code.”
As for the future, Caliendo wants to build apps that help protect animals and the natural environment — she’s especially interested in reptiles and amphibians. It’s what led her to start planning an app that will help scientists and volunteers monitor and safeguard sea turtle nests along Italy’s coast.
“I study the animals we’ve lost to help protect the ones we still have,” says Caliendo. “We all have an opportunity to positively change things in the world, and I see technology and coding as the tools I can use to do that.”
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 startups, and created organizations focused on democratizing technology and using it to build a better future.