Apple picks up apps created by SST students

They credit School of Science and Technology with nurturing their talents

Watch out for Dalton Ng, James Lim, Axios Yeo, Ravern Koh, Sean Lim, Shannen Rajoo and Yee Jia Chen. The teens are among the up-and-coming mobile app developers in Singapore.

The youngest among them - Shannen, Jia Chen and Axios - are just 14 years old but they have already developed applications that are available on the Apple App Store. Not a small feat, considering that Apple rejects 40 per cent of more than 100,000 submissions each week.

The three boys developed PortableCL, a Chinese learning app made for primary school pupils.

All these young mobile app developers have one thing in common - they are from the same secondary school, the School of Science and Technology, Singapore (SST), which this year graduated its fifth O-level batch of students.

The specialised secondary school, opened in 2010, offers an alternative to mainstream secondary schools for students with an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Students must have a Primary School Leaving Examination score of at least 200 that qualifies them for the Express stream.

The young developers said they had an early interest in programming but it was SST, through its programmes and dedicated teachers, that nurtured their interest and talents further.

Shannen and Jia Chen recently also launched their app called Tasks, which helps users keep track of their to-do lists and avoid procrastination.

The pair said they learnt basic programming along with their schoolmates in Secondary 1.


Having had a taste of it, they wanted to go further and opted for the infocomms talent development programme, called SST Inc, where teams of students form start-ups and develop apps that would be of use to the wider community.

The school also encourages them to take part in hackathons and competitions because these provide learning opportunities.

Earlier this year, the school encouraged its students to take part in the Swift Accelerator Programme, launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Tinkercademy and Apple.

Shannen and Jia Chen joined the programme and built their Tasks app over the past nine months with the help of experts from Apple and Tinkercademy, which teaches coding to students of all ages.

Besides learning how to build apps using Apple's Swift programming language, they also learnt how to brainstorm ideas and picked up presentation and marketing skills.

Dalton and James, both 17, were among three Singaporeans to win Apple scholarships to attend this year's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in the United States.

Dalton is doing a diploma course in cyber security at Singapore Polytechnic, while James is studying game development at Nanyang Polytechnic.

Dalton, who also runs his own company, Agrate, with SST schoolmate Joshua Wee, said the school was instrumental in nurturing his interest in coding and developing apps, as well as entrepreneurship. Joshua, 17, is studying engineering science at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Dalton said: "I started at 11 years old, modifying games like Minecraft, but it was at SST that I was introduced to app programming. After that, when I got the chance to go into a talent programme building apps, I seized the opportunity."

He said SST was also where he published one of his first apps, Gradulator, which helps his schoolmates set goals and track their grades while encouraging them to hit higher targets.

In addition to creating apps, Agrate conducts free coding lessons for needy students.

Sean and Ravern, both 18 and studying at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, teamed up with four other SST alumni to build an app for KK Women's and Children's Hospital that serves as a pocket medical handbook for training doctors.

The app enables doctors to easily search for notes on medical procedures and do drug calculations seamlessly. It has been so useful that another hospital has approached the school for an app.

SST principal Linda Chan said SST Inc is just one of several programmes the school provides to nurture the talents and interests of its students.

The others include a programme on developing students who are interested in art, design, media and technology. Yet another is for students keen on innovation and entrepreneurship.

She referred to the mission at SST - to nurture innovators who improve society through real-world application of science and technology - adding that the school emphasises service to the larger community.

SST's head of department for educational technology Aurelius Yeo, who came up with the idea of students forming business start-ups to build their apps, said hands-on, real-world learning is powerful. "Not only is it engaging, the students also see the immediate relevance of what they are learning."

Programme nurtures young app developers

Students from the School of Science and Technology, Singapore were not the only ones to score success with their apps.

Two secondary school students also managed to get the app they created published on the Apple App Store at the end of a nine-month programme to teach students how to build apps and publish them.

Called BrushNow, the app was created by Wylie Quah, a Sec 2 student from Edgefield Secondary, and Danil Syrov, who is in Sec 1 at Pasir Ris Secondary.

The app is aimed at helping people brush their teeth better, and users can even set reminders to make sure they do not forget to brush.

Altogether, there were 15 apps created by the 50 students who took part in the Swift Accelerator Programme launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Apple and education company Tinkercademy.

This initiative was targeted at secondary school students who have an interest in computational thinking and want to pursue it further.

The organisers said the aim was to uncover young talent and give them the space, opportunity and coaching to excel.

A closed call was put out to 17 secondary schools, and 50 students were selected from more than 70 applicants.

The 180-hour intensive programme kicked off during the March school holidays with introductory sessions by Apple experts as well as local app developers. Students were taught how to build apps using Apple's Swift programming language.

A huge dose of commitment was required from the students, who had to meet every Saturday morning for three hours each time during the school term, and for several days in June and during the September break.

Beyond coding, the students spent time honing their skills in story-telling and marketing. They also got the chance to speak with other student developers and find out at first hand what was needed to develop their own apps.

Apple has launched several education initiatives around the world. Besides running programmes on teaching students and adults to code, it offers guidance and resources to school teachers.

The Apple Store in Singapore runs Teacher Tuesdays, where teachers are invited to collaborate and learn new skills and create effective and interesting learning experiences.