Kid developers (Part 1)

4/23/2012 6:27:19 PM

Developing apps is child’s play

If you read our recent guide on how to get started on getting your apps into the App Store, you might have noticed how accessible it has become. Anyone can download the developer kit, register and submit their apps to iTunes as long as they are prepared to read and learn basic code along the way.

People of all ages the world over are now instantly becoming developers with the vast resource section provided by Apple and a little known information resource called the internet! It has been reported that kids as young as 9 have been creating apps and there is a growing contingent of kid developers getting their game on.

Description: Kid developers (Part 1)

Michael Lawrie and Conner Haines are just two young developers who have recently made headlines for their achievements.

Toxic hazards have never been so much fun!

Michael Lawrie is a 15 year old developer from Fort William, a small Scottish town, without any prior experience in coding or computer development. But he always enjoys working with technology and is a big fan of Apple products.

Description: Michael Lawrie is a 15 year old developer from Fort William

After fixing his cousins Apple TV, one of is friends remarked that he should develop his own app. Until that point he had never even considered making one.

‘Firstly, you have to come up with a game concept,’ explains Michael. ‘Secondly, you have to get some basic images and put your game concept with the basic images into an application.

Thirdly, you have to upgrade the images and add sounds, and lastly, and possibly the most important part of the development stage is making sure that your app has no bugs and works with the operating system properly. After all of this you can eventually send your app to Apple.

To start with I had no real ideas, I was just getting used to the programme and learning some basic code, but once I was more confident I started brainstorming. I decided that it would be relatively easy to make and I thought it could be a good addictive game.’

That game is Atomic Dodge Ball. The aim is to avoid bouncing Atomic Waste, randomly appearing bio and toxic hazards, whilst picking up points with first aid balls. Atomic Dodge Ball has 5 levels for all ages and abilities, a high score leader board and will soon boast the ability to post high scores on Facebook and Twitter.

But before Atomic Dodge Ball made its debut on the App Store, Michael, still 14 at the time, had to teach himself about basic coding, computer programming and how to use Apple’s development kit. His parents helped get him started by buying him a 600 plus page book that Michael read cover to cover. Any issues or problems he encountered from there were researched on the internet.

‘I have to say that it was very hard to read through the book and make some of the examples that it gave,’ says Michael. ‘I thought that this was “too hard” on many occasions and even thought about giving up, but I persisted and it eventually paid off.’

People of all ages the world over are now instantly becoming developers with the vast resource section provided by Apple and a little known information resource called the internet!

It was a good thing that Michael did persist as he overcame the challenges he faced and proved that you really can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

‘The internet was a very helpful tool during the development of my app and I would have struggled to complete some aspects of the game without the help of it.

When I was learning some basic code I learnt how to animate an image around the screen. Basically, I revolved the game around what I could do, code wise, but I decided that I had to learn some stuff myself to enhance the user’s experience.’

Michael hasn’t had any computer training but technology has always been of interest to him. He says that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally, but because he enjoys working with technology, he is always doing something with computers, whether that is altering the computer setup and trying to get the household internet speed up to scratch or wirelessly linking the house computers together. Everything he has learnt along the way has helped with developing his apps.

Of course his parents played a key role in all of this as well by encouraging him, making sure he took regular breaks and offering their support where possible. This usually resulted in being told ‘you wouldn’t understand!’ so they concentrated on getting Michael out of the house and doing outdoor activities to help him recharge.

‘When Michael decided he wanted to make the App, we said we’d help him out and buy him the computer he needed,’ says his mother Lyn Lawrie.

‘Although we said he had to pay us back, because we don’t think it’s good just to hand children expensive items (it was also to make sure he wasn’t trying to get a computer out of us, under false pretenses!), we did know that he would try hard to succeed, although I don’t think either of us realized just how hard and frustrating a journey it was going to be.’

‘We may even let him off paying us back for now and let him get the thing he dreams about, an iPhone 4. I have one and as I can’t use half the functions, he thinks it’s completely wasted on me; it may be true but I love it!’

Michael encountered many challenges along the way, one being to get the high scores leader board functioning correctly as everything needs to be exactly right. But upon submitting Atomic Dodge Ball to the App Store, it was accepted on his first try.

In most cases, even after developers have tested their app significantly, Apple will find glitches or aspects that need fixing so completing an app that works perfectly first time around is no small feat. Naturally the rest of the family were thrilled with the outcome and very proud of their young developer.

‘When I completed Atomic Dodge Ball I was very happy but I thought that it wasn’t going to get accepted first time, so I had prepared myself for it to come back to me with something that needed fixing. So although I was happy that I had sent it to Apple for approval, I was not building my hopes up.

When I saw that my game went on the App Store, I was simply over the moon! I couldn’t believe that it got accepted, and on my first attempt at sending it to Apple for approval.

It is hard to make sure that it runs smoothly mainly because there are so many things that can interrupt your game such as an incoming text, low battery or a notification from another app.’

Acceptance to the App Store also came at a very opportune time. His prelim exams were coming up at school the following week and, with the timing of the app being sent away and the need for Michael to study, his parents were slightly worried it was going to come back with problem to fix. Thankfully no alterations were required.

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