App design Challenge

12 July 2023


A project that started just over 12 months ago learning to design and code has turned into so much more for Year 9 students Noah and Oscar.

The two students joined the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) SWIFT Student Challenge in April 2022, a yearly programming competition run by Apple for students around the globe. Fifteen St Andrew’s students began the challenge, however Oscar and Noah, as well as Year 8 student Charlie, persisted through the complex work, refining their design and code over 12 months, ending up with a product they were each able to present to Apple. In addition to the the tangible skills of design and coding, the project proved to be a lot of ‘hard fun’ and commitment in a style of learning that forces students to think beyond their self. It's not necessarily about competition or recognition, it's an opportunity to explore a range of ideas and concepts and create, build and make something that has a real world impact. Oscar and Noah share their experience and learning from this unique challenge.

Why did you enter the SWIFT design challenge?
N: I entered because I saw it as an incredible opportunity to apply my skills and creativity to solve real-world problems. I was inspired by the prospect of using technology to make a positive impact on people's lives, particularly in the healthcare sector.
O: I wanted to enter so I could test my skills and work towards a deadline in an enjoyable way. The challenge also involved creating an experience that is polished and well-rounded, which is an important skill I wanted to develop.

Tell us about your project, what is it, what does it do and why did you choose this specific project?
N: My project is called Digi Care, a medication tracking app that aims to simplify and enhance the medication management process for individuals. It allows users to input their medications, set reminders for dosage schedules, track their adherence, and even receive refill notifications. I chose this project because I was inspired by seeing my grandfather's complex medication list and wanted to create a solution that would help individuals like him manage their medications more effectively.
O: My project is called Habit Tracker, an app for forming and tracking the progress of habits. It does this through sending notifications, and making recommendations if a habit isn’t achievable for the user. I was inspired to create this app because I used to be stuck in the habit of watching lots of YouTube and other social media, but I wanted to break this and use my time to work on other projects like this one. I think this is also a problem that many other people face, and one of the best solutions I discovered was forming a new habit.

What have you learnt from working on the project?
N: Throughout my journey, I have gained invaluable knowledge and skills. I deepened my understanding of user-centered design principles, honed my coding abilities, and acquired expertise in mobile app development. Additionally, I learned the importance of effective time management, problem-solving, and incorporating user feedback to continuously improve the app's functionality and user experience.
O: I have learnt a lot about the complex date system in Swift, and how it can be used to schedule regular events with notifications. I have also learnt about designing data models in a smart and well thought out way, which can be tricky and time consuming.

What’s been the biggest challenge with your project, and how did you overcome it?
N: Designing an intuitive user interface that would cater to a diverse user base. To overcome this, I conducted extensive research on user experience best practices and sought feedback from potential users. By refining the app's design based on user testing and feedback, I was able to create a user-friendly interface that addressed the needs of my target audience.
O: The biggest challenge for me was the time constraint because I hadn’t worked towards a deadline in this environment before. I found this difficult because I had to be more organised with the way I developed different features, but I planned ahead and set myself goals for each day leading up to the deadline.

What has kept you motivated to keep working on this for 12 months+?
N: My motivation stemmed from the belief that Digi Care had the potential to make a meaningful impact on people's lives. Witnessing the positive feedback and gratitude from individuals who have used the app during the development process has been incredibly rewarding. Additionally, the support and encouragement I received from mentors, friends, and family have been instrumental in sustaining my motivation and commitment to the project.
O: A lot of my motivation has come from my passion to continue learning new things. I saw this challenge as a learning opportunity, so I wanted to try my hardest to create a final product that I was happy with, while also trying to learn many different aspects of the Apple and Swift ecosystem.

Has working on this opened up new ideas for what you might want to do in senior school and even after school? If so, what
N: Absolutely! Working on Digi Care has sparked a passion for using technology to address challenges faced by everyday people. It has inspired me to explore further opportunities in the field of digital health and technology and consider pursuing relevant subjects during my senior school years. Beyond that, I envision myself continuing to develop innovative solutions and making a positive impact in the healthcare industry.
O: I have always wanted to pursue some form of career related to computer science, but I have struggled to choose the area that I’m most interested in. The Swift Student Challenge has really helped me discover what it’s like to design and create apps. I’m still open to exploring other aspects of computer science, but I think I could see myself in some form of job like this in the future.

What are your future plans for your project and also for the SWIFT challenge?
N: For Digi Care, my future plans involve refining and expanding the app based on user feedback and evolving healthcare needs. I aim to collaborate with healthcare professionals to ensure the app aligns with industry standards and explore potential partnerships for wider adoption. Regarding the SWIFT challenge, I plan to continue participating in similar competitions, seeking opportunities to collaborate with other passionate individuals and organizations. I am excited to contribute to the advancement of technology and its application in solving real-world problems.
O: I wanted to improve my skills as an app developer, and I believe that I have reached that goal. I also recognise that my project could be improved in some areas if it’s to further succeed in the challenge, so I want to create a new app for next year. I’m planning to go a bit smaller in scope for this project, and to focus on creating a more polished and well-designed submission.

What’s the biggest personal lesson you learnt from this?
N: The power of perseverance. I discovered that tackling complex challenges requires resilience and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. I learned to embrace feedback, iterate on my ideas, and remain dedicated to my goals even in the face of obstacles.
O: To not jump straight into coding something, but to instead think about it first and plan out how it might be implemented. I think this was a necessary skill for me to develop and has been invaluable.

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