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Thinking to Code, the story of 3 Swift Student Challenge winners

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Thinking to Code, the story of 3 Swift Student Challenge winners

Stories of life and code, or when knowing a language can change a trajectory. We met 3 young people who have found a way to change their history with programming: an Italian, a Brazilian and a French. And these are their stories.

Alessia Andrisani she graduated in Languages ​​and her future, as she explained herself after winning the Apple Code Challenge, was that of translations or teaching. Until the chance encounter with something about her that her academic background and her professional trajectory would never have let her imagine. Fast forward and a year later she is among the 350 students from 40 countries that they have vinto la Swift Student Challengethe challenge in programming with Swift, the open source language created by Apple to facilitate work and in some way also life not only for its programmers.

Alex Frelas Soeres he is a little less young: he is Brazilian and at 35 he realized that a safe place in the bank was not for him and he decided to get back in the game, returning to university to study as a developer. In 2020 he went to one of the Developer Academies that Apple created in the world and today he has rediscovered himself as a developer.

In the end, Hugo Queinnec, French, 22 years old on June 13, a passion for computer science from an early age and a trajectory that we would expect in those who, instead of being an astronaut or firefighter, dream of being a coder: Polytechnic and a lot of traditional code. With, at a certain point, a discard of imagination: why not participate in the Challenge? “I started with Apple’s online tutorials, because they are very well done and obviously free – he explained – I learned how to program Swift from scratch in a short time and I wrote my own app, which is the one that won the Challenge”.

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The app in question it’s called Split! and it answers a very simple problem: sharing the costs of the apartment that Hugo rents with 3 fellow students. But with an edge: “Apple provides programming tools and libraries that are very powerful, but very simple to implement. Once I studied the logic of the app, I also found an Apple framework that allows extract data from any document or image and in a short time my app allows you to photograph and scan any receipt, digitize the data and quickly divide them into the overall expense account, even in an asymmetrical way “.

Alessia, like Hugo, met Tim Cook on the sidelines of the last WWDC, the developer conference that was held in Cupertino on 6 June. In addition to the awarding of prizes for senior developers (including two Italians) Apple has selected the best juniors who are learning to use coding tools. And it was the CEO of Apple himself who pushed to make this activity public and give visibility to the very young who for the first time they try their hand at coding: “Meeting him – Alessia told us – was a very strong emotion, and I would like to tattoo his words on my skin”.

After graduation, the young bell fell in love with coding and today she considers it another language: “Programming means using a universal language that everyone should learn today”. His app is an easy game, but hard to break away from: Emoj-it presents a series of emojis that must be read and interpreted, like a puzzle, to reconstruct the titles of famous films and books. “Once I finished the game, in two weeks, I let my friends play with it and I got excited and had a lot of fun watching them play something I had created.”

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Alex’s app is called Blocalcs and trains you to do the calculations: it’s a game with simple rules, but which make life difficult for those who want to try one level after another. “She came to my mind – she told us – why many people have problems with arithmetic, and this app helps them to train while having fun with a challenge “. But the true love of this Brazilian bank turned programmer is another: “I love to write code. I love making an app that people can use every day. I love to help others do something thanks to my work: WWDC is the most important event in the life of a developer and I take the time to listen, study and learn the things they present. And when I took part in the Challenge and discovered I had won, I didn’t believe it: I changed my career at 35, I thought I was old but all the confidence I had in myself paid off. “

If there are three themes that unite these three people they are the belief that code is a universal language that cannot be missing in the education of people and the support of the community of programmers that has helped them to recognize themselves as people capable of programming even if they come from a path that is only partially traditional. The importance of this second aspect cannot be underestimated: “Finding other girls and boys at the Apple Academy in Naples was fundamental,” Alessia told us. For Alex, “hang out with developers it allowed me to grow not only as a developer but also as a person. “For Hugo, who started with the idea of ​​being a programmer,” meeting Cook was a fantastic experience and for me it was a unique emotion to to see my work recognized in this way “.

The third thing that unites the 3 is the same consideration of computer science in general and coding in particular. Nobody uses complicated words like “computational thinking” or brings up high-sounding names such as the pedagogue Seymour Papert, computer scientists and cognitivists Alan Perlis and Marvin Minsky, and computer scientist Jeannette Wing, who coined the term. However, all 3 see the importance of approaching children, with easy tools, to the analysis of problems and the search for their solutions in a logical and structured way. To analyze, explore and understand processes which are a novelty in the way humans do problem-solving.

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Computational thinking, which is the basis on which you can learn to code or do a thousand other things related to computer science, is not learning a particular technique, but of an approach, of a glance: the classical high school of computer science. It means understanding problems and their solutions in ways that a computer might even perform. The code comes later, and even a child can literally learn it. The 3 agreed on this: to start programming, you don’t need the ball of mathematics, be nerd or geek (maybe only males). No: what you need is to use logic and a way of thinking that you learn, then the tools come naturally (“especially when they are as easy as Swift Playground for iPad,” Alessia told us).

Finally, a note to the story of these three young programmers: for Alessia, the girl with a background like the humanistic one apparently more distant from programming, having found a community was important because, she told us, he introduced her to seeing other women coding. Seeing and recognizing oneself in other people who know how to do something is also Alex’s opinion, it is essential to gain security and move forward. In short, the community is as crucial as the way of thinking. Code becomes a universal language for express yourself not only towards the computer (who must interpret the commands) but also to deal with the community.

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