Apple’s annual Swift Student Challenge recognizes the best in student coding, and this year, it has added a new category to its ranks. Out of 350 winning submissions, 50 students have been named Distinguished Winners for building app playgrounds that stand out for their innovation, creativity, social impact, or inclusivity. These 50 students have been invited to a three-day in-person experience at Apple Park that includes tailored programming and the special event at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), where they’ll join like-minded creators from all over the world.

“This year’s winning Swift Student Challenge submissions once again demonstrate the breadth and depth of what is possible when talented young people use coding to make their mark on the world,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. “We’re also incredibly proud to welcome more outstanding student developers than ever before to Apple Park to connect with our teams and each other as they continue to build apps that will no doubt transform our future for the better.”

This year’s winners come from all over the globe, representing more than 35 countries and regions. Many of their app playgrounds were sparked by something personal, such as helping people in their community or a favorite hobby. For Distinguished Winners Elena Galluzzo, Dezmond Blair, and Jawaher Shaman, inspiration also came from their families — and they share the hope that one day, their apps can make an impact on others as well.

A colorful collage featuring a portrait of Care Capsule creator Elena Galluzzo.

Elena Galluzzo, 22, divides her time between Waterloo, Ontario, where she’s finishing her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, and her family home in the suburbs of Toronto. She shares that home with her parents, her sister, and her maternal grandparents, who were the inspiration for her winning app, Care Capsule.

“My grandmother is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and requires full-time care,” says Galluzzo. “And it’s also hard on my grandfather because it can be quite lonely — even though he lives with his children and grandchildren, a lot of older people don’t. Canada has an aging population, so I think it’s really important to keep looking into ways we can help people in this field, and coding is one way I can contribute.”

Galluzzo designed Care Capsule to be an all-in-one assistant for elderly people. She used Apple’s machine learning framework Create ML to build a chatbot that analyzes interactions with the user to deduce whether they are experiencing loneliness or depression. The app also lets users track their medications, connect with community resources, and keep a record of positive memories.

After Galluzzo graduates with a degree in business this spring, she hopes to publish Care Capsule on the App Store, potentially incorporating what she learns when she attends WWDC24 in June.

“Being able to meet other people who have the same passion as I do is very exciting,” she says. “I’m also really looking forward to seeing what new frameworks are coming out and how I could use them. I think it’s very cool to be able to create something that can tap into your device’s native functionality and help solve important challenges at the same time.”

A colorful collage featuring a portrait of MTB XTREME creator Dezmond Blair.

Dezmond Blair, 22, grew up in Canton, Michigan, and spent a lot of his time outdoors mountain biking with his little brother. His family had a secondhand computer, but they couldn’t afford to connect it to the internet.

“After growing up in a trailer park, it became really important for me to make sure that I was keeping up on all my grades because my parents told me when I was young, ‘You’re definitely not ending up like we were,’” says Blair. “They spent a lot of their life trying to make sure that I wouldn’t have to struggle the same way they did, and so that’s where my inspiration and my passion comes from.”

He worked hard in high school and discovered he had a knack for technology, eventually getting his associate’s degree in computer programming. Last year, Blair started at the Apple Developer Academy in Detroit, where he was introduced to Apple’s coding language Swift. With it, he created his winning iPad app called MTB XTREME, which puts users behind the handlebars of a mountain bike, offering a 360-degree view of the trails around them. Eventually, Blair wants to release an even more immersive version for Apple Vision Pro.

In addition to working on his own apps, Blair recently started his own company that helps to design app prototypes, which he cleverly named Easy Dez It — though his most important goal for the future comes back to his parents.

“I want to end up buying them a house one day,” says Blair. “They’ve done so much for me and my little brother, so I have to pay it forward.”

A colorful collage featuring a portrait of My Child creator Jawaher Shaman.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Jawaher Shaman was very close to her grandfather. When she was 5, he passed away, and soon after, she developed a stutter that became debilitating. Over time, and with the help of her father, she was able to learn ways to manage it and no longer stutters. Now 27 and studying at the Apple Developer Academy in Riyadh, Shaman’s winning app playground, My Child, aims to help others with speech conditions.

“My father never made me feel different, and I hope my app will do the same for any child or young person who suffers from stuttering,” says Shaman. “I don’t want them to ever feel like stuttering is a hurdle they can’t overcome.”

My Child tells Shaman’s story through the eyes of a child who stutters, and features characters inspired by her father and grandfather. The app guides users through exercises that help slow down their breathing and prepare them for real-life experiences like reading a story in class. Shaman used AVFAudio to add sounds that mimic the way her father would break sentences into small, more manageable parts.

After graduation, Shaman will work as a programmer in Saudi Arabia, and she also wants to publish My Child on the App Store and continue creating apps that assist others.

“I hope to use technology to help children who are neurodivergent because I know what it’s like to feel different,” says Shaman. “Coding for me opened up a world of possibilities, and it brings me one step closer to achieving my goals, which are to help people and create a lasting impact.”

Apple is proud to champion the next generation of developers, creators, and entrepreneurs through its annual WWDC student program. Over the past four decades, thousands of students from all over the world have built successful careers, founded businesses, and created organizations focused on democratizing technology and using it to build a better future.

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