WWDC 2020: Meet Indian Swift Student Challenge winners

WWDC 2020: Meet Indian Apple Swift Student Challenge winners

Last month, Apple announced to host the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2020 in June (22-26) and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be held online and if the Cupertino-based company is to be believed, more than 23 million software programmers, tech enthusiasts, and fans will be participating, making it the biggest virtual programme to date.

Besides that, Apple, in a bid encourage youngsters to take up programming announced Swift Student Challenge, inviting children to develop apps and games on the Swift Playground platform. Now, the results are out. Apple has picked 350 winners from 41 different countries and regions. 

Among them, several Indian students including two Bengalureans have made it to the achievers' list. Deccan Herald had an opportunity to interact with the winners. Here's the excerpt.

Parikshith Vallish (Bengaluru, Karnataka)
Parikshith Vallish (20 years) is currently pursuing his 3rd year of Computer Science Engineering. Apparently, he started coding in 2014 and learned C, C++, Java and later, Swift. To show off his programming skills to his friends, he has been creating fun apps and this interest seems to have finally paid dividends in the Swift Student Challenge.

"I’ve always been a big Apple fan. I participated in the Swift Student Challenge as I’ve always dreamed of attending WWDC in person. To watch the keynote in person, meet fellow developers, learn everything new in the week ahead, maybe even meet the people behind the products, and attend the extra events around the area. Unfortunately though, due to the ongoing pandemic, the physical event was cancelled and replaced with the virtual one, but that didn’t stop me from applying. I’ve always wanted to apply for the Swift Challenge that happens every year and after putting it off for so many years, I figured it was the time that I change that and I gave my best effort to the challenge this year, " Parikshith Vallish said to DH.


Parikshith Vallish. Picture credit: Apple

"No matter how hard I try, I just can’t come around to believing that I’ve won the Swift Student Challenge! Up until now, I’ve only dreamed of this day. I didn’t think it’d ever happen. It feels so surreal to finally accomplish what is essentially one of the top items on my bucket list of things to accomplish in my life. More than anything, this is a personal reminder to me that anything is possible with hard work, dedication, love, and passion. The excitement level I have is through the roof! I can’t wait to see what’s in store at WWDC’20!," Vallish noted.

When asked what he aspires to do going forward, Vallish said-- "To put it briefly, Steve Jobs once said 'You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.' That’s exactly what I aspire to do. All of that stems from my interest in Creative Arts, inspired by the brilliant heartwarming stories Pixar tells and the amazing products Apple makes. I aspire to make things that will help humanity. Currently, I’m not working on any iOS app, but I have a lot of ideas for apps that I would like to build in the future."

"I’m not too sure of what to expect. I’m looking forward to all the new software and possibly new hardware announcements from Apple, the session videos and all the new technologies developers can utilize to make their apps and services better than ever. Since I’m still learning Swift, I’d love to learn more about how to make wonderful, well designed, meaningful apps.  I’ve always been fascinated with computers and I’d love to see the new technologies available for us to work with. I can't wait for June 22nd!," Vallish added.

Hariharan Murugesan (Chennai, Tamilnadu)
Hariharan Murugesan started coding in 2014, the very year Apple announced their new programming software, Swift. However, the inspiration to code came from his mother, who said to him in high school why is he playing other people’s games and why not try building his own. 

So far, he has developed two apps on App Store -- one 'Neural Vision' for iOS and another  'Inhale Air Quality Monitor' for iOS and macOS.


Hariharan Murugesan. Picture Credit: Apple

When asked about what kind of apps he loves, Hariharan Murugesan said- "Augmented Reality apps, which tend to create a bridge between reality and computer-generated objects fascinates me. Being able to design something like a turbo-pump or fuel injection system for my rocket engine on my Mac and then being able to see how it fits in the real world without having to actually build it, it helps a lot in tweaking my designs further. I truly believe that AR apps have big potential in almost all fields. Particularly, education, AR will enable students like me to explore new things on a whole new level. With technologies like Apple’s ARKit getting more and more advanced year by year, and entry-level iPads getting really affordable, I think AR will revolutionise the way we explore things."

DH: Are you looking at creating apps that help India in solving real-life problems?
"Yes, Of course, It is a dream of mine to create something for my country. I’m thinking of two problems right now which I feel needs to be addressed as soon as possible, firstly, degrading air quality of major cities in India, and another is education, where I feel students need more “Interactive Education” to understand the concepts even better and I wish to solve this problem by creating a suite of ARKit apps which lets students interact with the concepts like never before. Regarding air quality, I have an app on the iOS and Mac App Store named “Inhale Air Quality Monitor” which fetches AQI from web services, I’m planning on integrating the app with compatible home appliances to provide more accurate data, and things like that in the future," Murugesan said.

"From the beginning, Apple has inspired me in a lot of ways, I still remember watching my first Apple Keynote after getting to know about Steve Jobs, the goosebumps when Steve walked on to the stage is something which I think of every time and something which we all miss. I admire Tim Cook’s leadership, his boldness, his vision. In later keynotes I became a fan of Craig Federighi, his charisma, his energy, and importantly his jokes inspired me to code more. Apple’s brilliant technologies like ARKit, Vision, SwiftUI made me execute my ideas faster and more effectively, Apple’s developer community has been a great motivation. Importantly, conducting a competition like this even during the toughest times is what I admire from Apple," Murugesan noted.

I have launched two new apps this year and in the upcoming WWDC 2020, I am really excited about improvements, and new features to ARKit, Vision, SwiftUI and more. With the newest iPad Pros featuring a LiDAR I just can’t stop thinking about what features Apple would add next to utilise the new hardware. I’m looking forward to updating my apps with the new tech and also creating new apps based on the announcements, Murugesan noted.

Manas Malla (Vizag, Andhra Pradesh)
After taking an online class for coding, Manas Malla has been experimenting on Swift Playground since he was 9 years old. Malla has even developed family-friendly app  EcoFun on Google Play store. The app helps people to measure Carbon Footprint (amount of CO2 released due to a particular activity by a person or organisation), and encourage users to plant more trees to balance the CO2 emission. This helped him win first place in the World Ocean Science Congress (2019) in Miami.


Manas Malla. Picture Credit: Apple

Though he is keen to bring the same app for Apple App Store, there is a dearth in financial support. He enrolled to Swift Student Challenge 2020 and won it. He is betting high on it to open doors for him to build an iOS app.

"Since my early childhood, I had a great fascination with computers and was curious all the time. I liked and used to always learn from the internet, learning how to google stuff, and soon I learned about programming languages in grade 3. Then when we were playing around with Logo and Turtle, I was like “What! We just write this code to draw a line..?” And then I started to question “How can we write apps like the ones which we use in daily-life on our phones and computers”, then I started googling, asking my relatives and going haywire! Finally, I got to know that I needed to learn other languages like ‘Java’, ‘Swift’, ‘VisualBasic’, ‘C++’, ‘Python’ and ‘XML’ to make them. Soon, I got to know of Rob Percival sir courses on Udemy, then I persuaded my parents to buy me the courses and I was even awarded certification for it by the Cambridge Certification Authority. Throughout the course, he used the macOS Operating System, and I couldn’t resist but to fall in love with the operating system so I persuaded my parents to get me an iMac. Finally, bearing to all the effort and the prize money I received in the nation-level competition, I finally bought an iMac," Malla said. 

"Also, I had this craze for updating the OS, and once, while searching about the latest macOS updates, I heard about the WWDC annual developer conference. Instantly, I watched it and that was how I got to know about WWDC Scholarship and so I participated in it last year after learning all the fundamentals of the language and writing few apps to get the feel of coding. Sadly, I was rejected and so I continuously followed the Apple developer website this year and was eagerly waiting and tensed for the WWDC Scholarship 2020 and or whether will it be hosted or not in such a global crisis situation. Still keeping hope I waited, improving my skills and at last, I did receive an email invitation for Apple’s Swift Student Challenge, so I thought it would be a bit different this year and so I participated mainly for the reason that I could interact with all the other coding intellectuals there and have an opportunity to earn the Apple Developer Membership on my own stand, " Malla added.

When asked how he felt winning Swift Student Challenge?, Malla said: "I felt immense joy and pleasure after receiving an email from Apple about me winning Swift Student Challenge. I was eagerly waiting the whole night for the results, felt tensed and ruminating all night about the result which would be declared that night and thus couldn’t get sleep. I woke up early that morning and at about 4 am, I received the acceptance email. I checked twice and thrice to confirm whether it was true, as I couldn’t just believe my eye and then was on cloud 9. It was the best moment of my whole life. I thank God and all the people who have sculptured me so that I could achieve this."

DH: Going forward, what do you aspire to? Are you working on any iOS app?
"Going forward, I feel extreme responsibility to direct my coding skill to make apps useful and used by all and this ‘Swift Student Challenge’ has given me the opportunity and the platform to reach out to the public and express my thoughts and ideas to the world. I gained extreme inspiration from Apple’s founder ‘Steve Jobs’ after I read his biography and book ‘Steve Jobs’ and ‘The Steve Jobs Way’. His perfectionism, simplicity, determination, looking even into the most minute detail and his user-perspective really blew my mind and even made me perform a small skit about his life’s journey in my school. Progressing, winning this challenge has given me a tremendous boost and motivation to make more apps and to reach my goal of one day, coming up on stage and speaking on the WWDC stage as CEO," Manas Malla said  

He is currently working on a few iOS apps such as the BeCoronaReady, EcoFun and Memories. 

Must read | WWDC 2020 will be the biggest developers' conclave to date: Apple

"BeCoronaReady, is my Apple’s Swift Student Challenge Submission, is an interactive game that helps to bring awareness regarding the various prevention methods to be taken to stay safe from COVID19 and be responsible as given by the World Health Organisation (WHO)!," Malla said.

"EcoFun is an App for solving climate change - Nourish our Blue & Green Planet by helping us measure our Carbon Footprint, encourage us to grow trees and be eco friendly as we, Humans gifted with enormous potential have the responsibility to strive together to stop global climate issues, generated by our actions," Malla added.

"Memories is a social media app which I believe can help in recollecting our golden memories in our lives and promoting AI as a cure people’s mental health," Malla noted.

Muhammed Sahil Arayakandy (Bengaluru, Karnataka)
Muhammed Sahil Arayakandy is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Management Studies. Three years, He started learning to code on Everyone Can Learn to Code website.


Muhammed Sahil Arayakandy. Picture Credit: Apple

On asked why he felt applying for Swift Student Challenge, Sahil said-- "I felt it would be an interesting challenge to build something that would be reviewed and validated by the team at Apple."

"I'm really excited and grateful to be win the Swift Student Challenge. Going forward, I hope to work on transformational technology and build great products. I am currently working an app and I hope to release in the next 2 or 3 months." Sahil added.

Get the latest news on new launches, gadget reviews, apps, cyber security and more on personal technology only on DH Tech.