How a Saskatoon teenager’s app caught the eye of Apple CEO Tim Cook

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Drake Jordan is on his way to becoming a big name in the tech world, as the youngest winner of Apple’s global Swift Student Challenge.

“At first I was really shocked,” the 13-year-old told CTV News.

“I was really excited to find out if I had won or not and it was really relieving to know that I had won.”

The Swift Student Challenge sees students from all over the world showcase their coding skills to create an app on any topic they choose.

Jordan has created an app called Sway, which allows people to experience synesthesia, a phenomenon where two senses combine in the brain and trigger each other.

“I’ve experienced synesthesia myself, so I really wanted to do something that could help people see what it feels like,” Jordan said. “I have a form of synesthesia where sound turns into sensations, like tactile sensations.”

Jordan describes it as a tickling sensation, but without the tickling.

“What Sway does is it displays a moving gradient on the screen that’s supposed to mimic how it feels, and the gradient changes based on how you move your device. Sway isn’t not the same kind of synesthesia that I have, I just wanted people to have a way to experience it,” he said.

“The more people can learn about synesthesia, the more widely it is known, the more they can understand how it affects people.”

For winning, Jordan received a prize package with Apple products as well as a surprise Zoom meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“They said they were having a student challenge event for all students. We went through the process of creating a script and rehearsing it, and then one actual day it was a total surprise when Tim Cook showed up,” Jordan said.

“As I was the youngest person on that call, that’s how the moderator introduced it to me, and he said it’s amazing what I’ve been able to do at such a young age and he’s Glad to see where I go from here.”

Jordan’s mother, Tanya, says he has always loved technology and this level of recognition for her son’s passion has been extremely exciting.

“He explained (his app) and I thought, ‘That’s pretty awesome,'” she said.

“I loved the idea of ​​what he chose to do, I thought it was quirky and different and something he knows personally, so I was really proud of him for the concept and the way which he executed.”

Perhaps even more impressive than this level of success at a young age is that Jordan has only been writing code for two years.

“It’s a huge learning curve, but once you get the basics down it’s pretty easy because it starts to feel like a second language almost like you write it,” he said.

“Once you figure it out, you can write it down quite easily.”

“He’ll kind of disappear into his room and walk out with ‘What’s your line of code total?’ and it will be thousands, tens of thousands,” her mother said.

Jordan sees a career building apps here in Saskatchewan or wherever the tech industry takes him.

“Whatever app could help people the most, that’s what I want to work on,” he said.

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