Mercer student wins scholarship to Apple conference 

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A Mercer student will get to rub elbows with software developers this summer at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. 

Brady Simon, a computer engineering major who just finished his junior year, competed in an app challenge and won a scholarship to attend the June 3-7 event in San Jose, California.  

“It is prestigious, because they open up this scholarship opportunity to the whole world, and they offer it to few people,” said Dr. Donald Ekong, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. 

Contestants had to build a simple, quick app using the Swift programming language. Simon created his own version of the classic snake game, in which a player directs a snake in eating objects and tries to keep it from running into its tail as it grows larger.  

He went for a more modern look for his game, with the snake appearing in a gradient of colors. Players control the snake by swiping their finger across the screen of the device. The app keeps track of the top score, and special animations pop up when a player wins or loses 

“It’s kind of my first real Swift app that I built. It means a lot to me to have it win something,” said Simon, also a 2019 Goldwater Scholar. “I’ve been slowly adding to it and building up things, making it look nicer.” 

Simon, from Rome, has been working on his app since last summer, when he started teaching himself Swift. He found out about the competition earlier this spring, and he adapted his snake game to fit the criteria. Simon said his love for programming comes from his father, who has a lot of software experience and encouraged him to apply for the competition. The pair plans to build an app together this summer.  

The version of snake that Simon submitted for the contest had two modes, normal play and auto play, but he is working on adding a speed mode that gives players a time limit, as well as a multi-player mode.  

“He takes initiative. I would make assignments on something, and he would go the extra mile,” Dr. Ekong said. “I might say, ‘Write an app that does A and B,’ and he would do A, B, C and D. I actually learned things from him.” 

Simon’s scholarship includes a one-year membership in the Apple Developer Program, which will allow him to make his game available in the App Store. He hopes to have it published by the end of the summer.  

During the conference, Simon will participate in student labs, attend seminars on building and improving apps, meet and network with app developers, and learn about the latest software Apple is developing.  

“I feel like I’m most excited to meet the actual engineers behind the underlying technologies at Apple,” Simon said. “As a computer engineer, they’re kind of what we’re building toward, an actual engineering job. I think it’s going to be pretty inspiring.” 

After he finishes his undergraduate degree, Simon plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer engineering and a career as a computationally-oriented control researcher. 

These screenshots show the snake game app that Brady Simon developed, which won him a scholarship to attend the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

These screenshots show the snake game app that Brady Simon developed, which won him a scholarship to attend the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

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Andrea Honaker