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June 17, 2024

MSU Apple Developer Academy learner a distinguished winner of the Swift Student Challenge

Dezmond Blair
Dezmond Blair

A Michigan State University Apple Developer Academy learner who created an app that takes users on a virtual mountain bike ride was named a Distinguished Winner of the Apple Swift Student Challenge, recognizing him for his coding excellence, innovation and creativity.

The annual Apple Swift Student Challenge — which gives thousands of student developers the opportunity to showcase their creativity and coding capabilities — saw 350 winning app submissions, with 50 students being named Distinguished Winners. Winners come from more than 35 countries and regions worldwide, including Dezmond Blair, an MSU Apple Developer Academy learner. Blair and the other winners are attending three days of tailored programming and special events at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, from June 10 to 14 at this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC.

“I really feel fortunate, more than anything, that this opportunity was given to me,” Blair said. “From the beginning, I’ve kind of just done the best that I can and took this as seriously as I could and really put my all into it. To see it all come full circle and get that recognition, it feels really good. It feels really, really good to have that recognition from Apple and to be recognized for all my hard work. There’s been a lot of confusion, I went down a lot of different paths, so finally getting to one that I feel passionate about, that is leading to a good place.”

Blair started as a learner in August 2023 at the MSU Apple Developer Academy in Detroit. The Academy is a partnership between MSU and Apple that provides a 10-month program giving individuals 18 or older a chance to learn about app coding, design, entrepreneurship and professional skills to become world-class app developers.

During his time at the academy, Blair learned about app development and created MTB XTREME, an app that takes users with him on a point-of-view, 360-degree journey as he rides trails on a mountain bike. He hopes to continue developing the app and make it fully immersive for use in the Apple Vision Pro, a mixed-reality headset.

“This year’s winning Swift Student Challenge submissions once again demonstrate the breadth and depth of what is possible when talented young people use coding to make their mark on the world,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of worldwide developer relations, in an Apple Newsroom article. “We’re also incredibly proud to welcome more outstanding student developers than ever before to Apple Park to connect with our teams and each other as they continue to build apps that will no doubt transform our future for the better.”

Apps and technology have long been an area of interest for Blair, going back to his middle school days when he and a friend built their first computer at 12 years old. He earned an associate degree in computer information systems with a specialty in programming from Schoolcraft College to further his interest and build on his future career aspirations.

And even now when he isn’t working on his latest app, Blair is teaching app development at Henry Ford College through the Apple Developer Academy’s Foundations Program. The Foundations Program gives students a taste of the Apple Developer Academy experience to help students determine their interest in full-time enrollment. Blair teaches a diverse class of students ranging in age from 19 to 77.

“It is with great pride and admiration that we recognize Dezmond Blair as an outstanding learner here at the Apple Developer Academy. Dezmond has consistently demonstrated exceptional academic performance, unwavering dedication to becoming better in technology, coding accolades, being in the top 50 students in WWDC, and a profound commitment to excellence in all endeavors,” said Anny Staten, assistant director of the Apple Developer Academy in Detroit. “Dezmond has navigated challenges with grace and exhibits a strong moral character that sets a positive example for other learners at the academy.”

A passion for technology  

Joining Blair in attending the WWDC is Gabe Push, another learner from the Apple Developer Academy in Detroit who applied and was selected to attend Apple’s annual information technology conference.

Gabe Push
Gabe Push

Push has spent his time at the Apple Developer Academy learning about app development and working with a group to develop an app that tracks tailgate gatherings ahead of athletic events or concerts. His group, consisting of numerous Detroit Lions fans, worked to develop the app as the Lions experienced a historic football season, with the group members hoping to make an app that made it easier for fans to find tailgates.

As part of their final challenge at the Apple Developer Academy, Push and his group are developing another app designed to keep users awake. His team set out to create an app that helps people become more creative, and during their research, Push and his team found that most people experience high levels of creativity the moment they wake up. In simple terms, he said the app will track sleep data and once it senses the user falling asleep, it will wake them up and help the user record any creative thoughts they have at the time.

Push hopes to network, make connections, show off the app projects he has been working on and get feedback from Apple developers.

“I've always been passionate about technology. I've always been good with computers,” Push said. “My family would always call me to come fix their computer or fix their iPhone or whatever it might be. But, before the academy, before school started, I didn't really develop any apps or work on any projects like that, I just knew that it was something I'd like to learn to do.

“The academy has been a great space for me, for somebody that's had almost zero prior experience coming in. I have learned so much in this past year that I feel like I can actually go out and do it by myself now. It's been a great experience and it helped me learn a lot.”

By: Mark Johnson

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