16y/o Malaysian Student Wins Apple’s Swift Student Challenge 2024 With Music Review App

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(source: Nur Alia Jannah / Apple)

Each year, Apple holds its annual Swift Student Challenge (SSC) — an initiative that gives student app developers the chance to show off their coding skills and foster growth, entrepreneurship, and networking opportunities with like-minded coders. Apple then selects 350 winners based on the ingenuity of their app.

SSC 2024 saw a whole host of interesting and innovative apps developed by students from all over the world.

Among the winners this year is 16-year-old Malaysian student, Nur Alia Jannah, who designed ‘Tracklist‘. It’s an app that allows users to review music according to title, artist, genre, and more. Think: Letterboxd, but for music.

JUICE had a chat with Alia about her coding journey, the drive that kept her going despite multiple attempts at the SSC, and the inspiration behind ‘Tracklist’:

Hi Alia, what sparked your interest in coding?

(source: Nur Alia Jannah / Apple)

I got into coding after learning about SSC and was inspired by other apps with gorgeous designs and UIs showcased at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021. After watching the keynote, I was convinced to start learning how to code using Swift and Swift Playground, which sparked my interest to create an app of my own.

How old were you when you first started coding? Is it too late for a noob like me to learn?

I started coding when I was 13 years old. After learning about SSC, I really wanted to learn how to code. At the time, I didn’t have a MacBook to explore coding, then I learned you can code on iPad. Since then, I started my journey coding through Swift Playground, which was easily accessible and comprehensible with puzzle-based learning, great for students like me.

I don’t think it’s too late because learning how to code on Swift Playground is really easy. Now, I have a MacBook Pro and I love using it to code!

Since you were self-taught, how do you compare independent learning to learning in a classroom environment?

I enjoy learning on my own when it comes to coding as I am able plan my own time to learn, around my school schedule.

In my opinion, the classroom environment focuses on consistency and discipline. Independent learning however, is a lot more relaxed, and I am able to catch up on my learning in my own pace.

I do wish that I can join extra-curricular activities that involve coding, since I could add it to my school’s extracurricular marks and make my portfolio stronger when I do apply for scholarships in the future.

What’s your favourite aspect of the app development process?

The Tracklist app lets you rate your favourite music based on multiple criteria. (source: Nur Alia Janna / Apple)

One of my favourite aspects of app development is when I code new features on the app. This is when I get to apply all my learnings from watching YouTube videos, reading articles from Medium, and even Stack Overflow. And when I do get to apply them, it’s a bonus for me!

What were your biggest inspirations when developing ‘Tracklist’?

My biggest inspirations are my family and friends. I would also extend this to those who have provided me with constructive feedback about the app’s functionality and interface, and helped solve the challenges I faced. Above all, not forgetting those who would appreciate reviewing and ranking songs and albums.

What else do you hope to achieve as a young woman in STEM?

(source: Nur Alia Jannah / Apple)

One of my ambitions is to graduate in the Computer Science field and one day become an Apple Distinguished Winner for the Swift Student Challenge, as this will pave my way for a trip to Apple Park and witness WWDC live.

On top of that, I’d also get the opportunity to network with amazing iOS developers globally and meet my role model since I started coding — Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering!

Assuming you’re a big fan of music, who will be your top-rated artists on ‘Tracklist’?

The ‘Add Music’ function on Tracklist has an intuitive design, reminiscent of Apple Music. (source: Nur Alia Jannah / Apple)

I would say I have an eclectic taste in music — ranging from pop music to instrumentals. I would still rate Taylor Swift as my top-rated artist, as I’ve been a fan since her Red (Taylor’s Version) era

I also listen to Genshin Impact’s OST — usually character demo songs and trailer music when I’m studying or coding — so they deserve to be on the top spot as well.

The third time’s a charm. Give us your best advice on dealing with setbacks and improving your craft.

My advice to future participants is, it’s never too early to plan. Start brainstorming your future app when inspiration hits, and as undeveloped as the idea is, you can always turn it into the most brilliant and functional idea.

I would also recommend getting feedback from family and friends. I’ve made it a practice to even go as far as getting feedback from the community on social media, such as users on X.

For more information about the Swift Student Challenge, click here.

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