Ishaan Prasad is a 15-year-old sophomore at the Belmont Hill School who has a passion for developing apps. Since 2012, Ishaan has created more than 5 apps for iOS and Android that have been downloaded more than 65,000 times in 75 countries. Having originally developed games for young children, recently Ishaan has placed a greater emphasis on educational and productivity apps, working with state representative candidates to create his campaign app and creating a Hindi language learning app (Match-It-Up: A Hindi Card Game) that has been used in classrooms.
Over the summer, Ishaan was also one of 350 students to be awarded a scholarship to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in June. As part of the scholarship, Ishaan travelled to San Francisco to meet Apple Executives (including Tim Cook!), attend the keynote, and participate in workshops.
How did you first become involved with coding and technology?
I first became interested in technology at the age of 10, after taking a class in school where we learned a block-based programming language called Scratch and worked with the Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kit. Created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch and NXT gave me my first glimpse into the world of programming, and I quickly fell in love with all aspects of technology! A few months later, my mom showed me a TED talk on a 13-year-old boy who had developed apps for iOS! When I learned that he developed apps using Xcode, I immediately downloaded the SDK on my iMac and began reading all that I could find on App Development and Objective-C.
Almost two years after I first started programming, when I was 12, my Mom was rushed to the hospital due to a spontaneous pneumothorax. While she is (thankfully!) doing great now, during this scary time, I found an outlet for my stress by creating my first app for iOS and Android, a children’s game called PetRun. Much to my surprise I received more than 1000 downloads on the first day, and I’m lucky to now have more than 65,000 downloads on my apps today!
Since PetRun, I have continued to learn as much as possible about technology, learning languages such as HTML, CSS, and Java, as well as design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Designer.
Have you created any apps? Tell us about them!
Since PetRun, I’ve created more than four apps for iOS, Android, and Windows 8, and hope to continue creating for these platforms! The second app I made, Armadillo Ambush, was a Wild West themed game that I developed during my summer between seventh and eighth grade. In eighth grade, I made another game, Apples to Oranges, before focusing on developing educational and productivity apps. In recent years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a state representative candidate to develop his campaign app, and I’ve also created a Hindi Language-Learning App (Match-It-Up Hindi), that has already been integrated into classrooms!
While I still update these apps as much as I can, in the future I hope to continue creating productivity and educational apps, and I already have a ton of ideas that I’d love to develop!
What programming languages are you familiar with?
Having started with Objective-C, today I am also familiar with Swift, Java, HTML, CSS, and PHP, and my goal is to continue to grow my skills in these languages, while also continuing to learn new ones! Along with programming, I’ve really enjoyed learning about design and the principles behind it, and have spent a lot of time learning and using software like Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer.
What is it that you enjoy about programming?
What makes programming so interesting to me is the creativity that can come out of such a logical skill. While programmers must follow a strict set of guidelines to make a computer “understand” their instructions, the possibilities that can come out of programming are endless. Much like playing with Legos, once you know the basics of programming, you can piece blocks together in order to accomplish whatever you can imagine.
For me, programming feels like an extension of my hand, a virtual paintbrush that I can use to express my creativity. As I’ve grown older, it’s been awesome to look back and see how much I’ve learned, as well as how much more I still need to learn to get better!
Are there any resources that have helped you develop your skills?
One of the great benefits of learning to program is that you can get a lot of help online! When I created my first app, I began by watching YouTube videos and using sites like StackOverflow and GitHub to ask questions and practice my skills.
While I definitely think it’s possible to learn entirely on your own, finding a mentor or another student to work with will undoubtedly make it easier to learn. Looking back on my journey learning how to program, I realize now the tremendous value in having a mentor who can guide you in the right direction.
Do you see yourself building a career field in the tech field?
I definitely think that I would enjoy fostering a career in the field of technology! I feel that one of the main reasons I enjoy app development is the belief that programming is and should be as important as learning algebra or a modern language. In programming you learn how to think logically and creatively at the same time. You have to articulate yourself in a precise manner while also being able to think outside the box to solve a problem. Ultimately, even if I end up in a field separate from programming, I know that the lessons I’ve learned from the subject will aid me in my future endeavors.
What advice do you have for other beginners?
Never be afraid to ask questions! Whether that means asking an experienced programmer on StackOverflow, or a fellow classmate at school, it is always much easier if you can learn from the mistakes and successes of other people.
On the same note, make sure you help out whomever you can, whenever you can! For a long time, I had always felt that I wasn’t “good enough” to help others, but I eventually realized that you don’t have to be the “perfect” developer to help a peer.
Recently I’ve been receiving emails from other teenagers from around the world who have wanted to get started in programming. While I tried my best to help them out, I quickly realized that I was learning just as much from them as they were learning from me!
Is there anything else you’d like to say to high school students who are potentially interested in learning how to code?
Don’t stop trying! As cliché as it might sound, programming is often a frustrating task for even the most advanced developers. However, what sets apart those who find success from those who give up is the willingness to learn from their mistakes, adapt, and keep on trying!