Malaysian teenagers with dreams: 16-year-old girl from Shah Alam becomes Apple Swift Student Challenge winner

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — Third time’s a charm for Nur Alia Jannah, who has won Apple’s annual Swift Student Challenge.

The Swift Student Challenge is a special annual competition run by Apple for young aspiring student programmers aged 13 and above, competing against students from around the world.

Shah Alam Nur Alia, who currently attends Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seksyen 16, first learned about the contest on X (formerly Twitter).

“When the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was announced for 2022, I knew I had to join the competition,” she said.

After watching the WWDC 2021 keynote, she decided to learn how to code using the Swift language and create her own projects through Swift Playgrounds, sparking her interest in creating her own apps.

According to Noor Alia, she saw the challenge as a starting point for her own project.

“The competition is also a great way to keep myself on my toes by interacting with experts in the field and doing project-based learning. I felt very grateful and happy when I found out I won!” she said.

Though Nur Alia didn’t have a MacBook, a prerequisite for programming in the Apple ecosystem, she realised she could code on an iPad too and began her coding journey through the Swift Playground app, which is free to use and download.

She started on an iPad but has now progressed to the point where she can code on her Mac.

Inspiration for music lovers

Her winning project, “Tracklist,” has an interesting story.

“Initially, the app was just going to be about tracking specific songs that I’d listened to, including album, artist, and song reviews. But then I realized that there weren’t really any apps for reviewing songs.”

Nur Alia realised that while sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Goodreads exist for user-generated reviews of films and books, there weren’t many websites dedicated to leaving reviews for songs and albums.

She has been passionate about music for many years and thought her app would fill the gap in music review apps on the App Store and be easy to use and accessible for any user.

“I think that’s why this song stood out to me: people listen to music every day, but no one ‘really’ reviews it,” she said.

She also hoped that the tracklisting would encourage people’s desire to share the music they listen to, allowing them to bring people closer to others through their musical tastes and thoughts.

Once she knew what she wanted, Nur Alia spent three weeks coding the app, starting with the UI concept and working through the structure and user interface.

“There have been some challenges along the way, but the key lesson I learned from creating Tracklist is to always have a git backup,” she said.

“At one point, I lost the app files and only had old backup codes, so I had to redo some parts,” she recalls, a lesson that will no doubt help her in her future coding endeavors.

She also had a lot of support in her efforts: “I’m grateful to have had so much support from friends, family, and experts in the field, who provided feedback on the app’s features and interface to help develop Tracklist.”

Noor Alia isn’t afraid to dream big. Her biggest dream is to one day work as a software engineer at Apple Park and “become one of the world’s best talents while making a difference in the field of technology.”

“I believe that with hard work, discipline, passion and confidence, if I keep learning and I’m successful, I’ll get there one day,” she said.

What advice would she give to aspiring future Swift Student Challenge winners?

“My advice to future participants is that it’s never too early to start planning. When inspiration strikes, start brainstorming about your future app. Even if your idea is still in its infancy, you can always turn it into the most amazing and functional idea,” she said.

Nur Alia encourages getting feedback from the community as well as family and friends, and even listened to X’s users to develop the app’s ideas.

As one of the 350 winners of the 2024 Challenge, Nur Alia received a one-year membership to the Apple Developer Program, a free voucher for the App Development with Swift certification exam, and a special gift from Apple.

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