Kid developers (Part 2)

4/23/2012 6:28:12 PM

Since the initial release Michael has put out a couple of updates, one fixing an issue with a ball that didn’t drop all the way through the screen and the other say upgraded and improved graphics and sounds, also accepted by Apple on his first attempt.

But it hasn’t stopped with Atomic Dodge Ball as Michael continued to produce a further two apps. One was a Lite version of Atomic Dodge Ball after realizing marketing plays and important role in the success of any app while the other was a Christmas title called Hungry Rudolph.

Hungry Rudolph is similar to Atomic Dodge Ball but the levels are easier to play, designed to make them more suitable for smaller children playing with their parent’s iPhones. Rudolph has to pick up carrots and presents to improve his score, whilst avoiding the snowballs and black snowflakes.

Both games sold well over the Christmas period, with downloads occurring in many different countries, other than the UK, including Canada, USA, Japan, Spain, Australia, Italy, Poland, India, and even the UAE. But sales have gradually started to decline.

‘I now realize it’s not as simple as just making the game, you have to have some form of marketing strategy. I have had some coverage in the local papers, and I was even on the TV, which is quite amazing! And all this helped my app get into the top 300 UK chart, it got up as high as the UK top 50 at one point. That was really cool to see my app in the charts, at one point the 2 games were beside each other.’

Marketing is another story altogether but this is just one of the many lessons learned that most 15 year olds don’t grasp until much later. It says a lot about Michael’s character and capacity to always learn and improve.

So does he have any advice for other budding developers out there?

‘You need to have an Apple computer, if you are struggling, use the internet and maybe join some online forums, buy a book, and possibly the most important thing, don’t give up! Be prepared to work hard as it is not an easy task.’

Apps for kids with cancer

One of the most inspirational stories of child developers is that of Conner Haines of Pennsylvania. At just 11 years old, Conner decided he wanted to develop apps for kids with cancer after his older sister Lauren was diagnosed with the disease at the age of two and half. Lauren is now 14 years old.

Description: Apps for kids with cancer

‘The good news is my sister is all-better now,’ says Conner. ‘That is why I started BElieve, I hope to get some kids that sign up for it.’

Believe is Conner’s charity, and organization that invites children with cancer to submit their app ideas to the fledgling developer who then pieces them together, submits to iTunes and donates all profits to the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.

Flip Flop Games is his company but, as he states online, Flip Flop is not so much a company but a website ‘by a kid that likes to make iOS games.’ He named it Flip Flop Games because he loves to wear flip-flops and, he says, all of his apps are going to be flip-flopped.

Conner says on his website:

‘I really like to think of game or app ideas and just bring them to life and let the whole world play or use them. I also love to spend time with all 7 of my siblings and just have an awesome time with them. I have 3 older siblings and 4 younger and even my siblings help me by trying out my new games. Also I am home schooled so I have time to make apps and help kids with cancer.’

Kids suffering from cancer who are interested in having an app developed by Conner just need to visit the website, download the template, print fill it in with their idea, draw out how they want the game to appear, scan the form and email back to

Conner insists on a letter or diagnosis from a doctor to ensure only those kids suffering from cancer have access to his services. But apart from that, it’s as easy as filling in the template and submitting it to Flip Flop before the hard work begins for Conner over the next 2-3 months. All he asks is that you don’t make the idea too difficult: he is only 11 after all!

So far, all four apps that Conner has successfully submitted to the App Store (one was a free version that has since been removed by Conner to improve sales and subsequent donations), are original ideas but he hopes kids will begin to sign up for BElieve soon and also hopes to attract the interest of medical centres to the organization.

So far Conner has sold over 2,000 downloads of his apps, not a bad start after seeing previous attempts and ideas not quite turning out how he would have liked. But That Chipmunk Bob seems to have taken off.

‘I did not have an idea for That Chipmunk Boob right away,’ says Conner. ‘It took lots of thinking and remarking to get That Chipmunk Bob out. I had about seven other apps I was going to make but they never worked out how they needed too so That Chipmunk Bob was not the first app that I made or thought of.

I have made four apps that have been on the App Store, now it is only three because I took off the free version of That Chipmunk Bob so I can have better sales.

I also made a Christmas Bob and a clock app called Kids Time Clock. That Chipmunk Bob is a fun app that I made for mostly kids that like a cute funny chipmunk voice. That Chipmunk Bob was not one of the best apps that I will be developing. Kids Time Clock will be coming out with some cool new features because I think it needs some more fun added to it.’

Like a lot of very young developers Conner is self taught while also being home-schooled, so the help and support of his family have played a major role in his success. They encouraged him to be persistent, but there wasn’t much they could do technically to help him, since he knows more about app development than they do.

‘We were quite blown away when he first showed me the game he created and how he figured out how to get it developed after we purchased a developer’s license,’ says Conner’s father.

‘Conner was extremely self motivated. He even asked us to wake him up extra early so he could have time working on his game and app before he had to start his school work.’

Conner has always wanted to make video games and this self motivation is what helped him to learn the basics and beyond, even when he had just missed out on registering for a video game development camp for kids. Instead, Conner just found out program they were using to teach on the camp was GameSalad, then proceeded to get his hands on a copy and dived straight in, learning from his mistakes.

Once he understood the basics and began creating mini games using GameSalad, Conner moved onto apps after enjoying classic titles such as Angry Birds.

‘I was self taught and I did find some useful forums and websites but it was kind of all something that looked fun,’ adds Conner.

‘The internet was a big help to find answer and help. It would have been hard without it.

The process is hard but I got it to work and I had to make everything just right. I had some challenges like publishing it and it took one month to get it all figured out. When it was all done it felt like the best day ever.’

It’s a great story and just one of the many examples of kids doing some great things using Apple’s development program. If you want to know more you can visit Conner’s website

The next Steve Jobs?

Late last year, a video began doing the rounds of 12-year-od Thomas Suarez giving a presentation at the TED x Manhattan Beach event in October 2011.

Description: Late last year, a video began doing the rounds of 12-year-od Thomas Suarez giving a presentation at the TED x Manhattan Beach event in October 2011.

Inspired by Steve Jobs, Thomas has all the poise, confidence and demeanour of the late Apple founder as he wowed the audience with his public speaking, knowledge and creations.

In the video, Thomas, who is currently a student in 6th grade at South Bay of Los Angeles Middle School, tells the audience how be became interested in coding as a kindergartner… yes that’s right, kindergarten!

He goes on to say that he taught himself programming basics in Python, C and java while his most popular creation using this knowledge is a Justin Bieber inspired whack-a-mole game called Bustin Jieber because ‘people at school disliked Justin Bieber a little bit.’

Description: In the video, Thomas, who is currently a student in 6th grade at South Bay of Los Angeles Middle School, tells the audience how be became interested in coding as a kindergartner… yes that’s right, kindergarten!

Thomas has also started an App Club at his school to share his and others’ knowledge to work with a teacher sponsor to create educational apps for iPad to be distributed to local school districts for free.

Most recently Thomas has created his own Apple inspired company named CarrotCorp, promising more apps in the future.

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