STUDENT Spotlight
Isiah Manns, Programmer/App Developer

Student Spotlight is a regularly-updated feature that highlights Baltimore County Public Schools students involved in a wide range of activities and programs. To see more student spotlights, click here.

Student SpotlightWestern School of Technology and Environmental Science
Rising Grade 12

When did you begin programming?
When I began freshman year at Western Tech, half the year went toward the Networking Pathway and the other half went toward the Programming Pathway. At the end of the year, we would be able to choose which one we liked better. I knew as soon I stepped foot into programming that that's what I wanted to do!

Why did you start programming?
I started programming first and foremost because I've always had an interest in technology – smartphones, computers, video games, website design. I've always wondered how it all works. I asked myself, "How were Facebook and Twitter created?" and "How did NetherRealm Studios design the fighting mechanics for my favorite game, Mortal Kombat?" As I got closer to finishing middle school, I always would find myself visiting the credits of a game and looking at all of the positions on the development team – senior and junior programmer, software engineer, designer, 3D artist and graphic designer, game tester, business and marketing, sound design, etc. There are many players on a game development team, but I wanted to do the programming.

What is Western School of Technology and Environmental Science's IT Programming Pathway?
The Programming Pathway is a magnet program where, each year, students learn a couple of different programming languages. Students create a variety of programs that solve a real issue. For example, students might have to design a program to convert Roman numerals to real numbers and vice versa. In their junior or senior year, students take Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science, which uses Java. There are also opportunities for internships!

What have you learned through the IT Programming Pathway?
We started with HTML/CSS and web design and gravitated to other programming languages, including C++, Robot C, Java, Visual Basic, LUA and more. Overall, I have learned how to read and analyze a proposal for a program, plan my solution out and then actually implement it in code. It can be a quite frustrating process since, sometimes, what I say in words might not be easy to translate into code, but I've grown to love it!

What is Operation 99?
Operation 99 is an educational app that I created. It's targeted for students to improve their basic math skills in a fun way. In the game, a number grid of random numbers, one to 15 inclusive, will appear. An operation will be highlighted based on the user's choice, and he or she must tap the number tiles to add or subtract their values. The object of the game is to survive 99 seconds of endless math problems involving either pairs or triples of numbers. If the user fails to solve a problem in 10 seconds or fewer or, at anytime during the game, gets three problems incorrect, he or she will lose. It creates a sense of urgency – speed is required to win! I also incorporated a point-based store where users can use the points they've earned to purchase items, such as hints and skips, to help get through challenging problems!

What was your inspiration behind creating the app?
My programming teacher, Mr. Louis Foster, gave out a simple project for my class to create in Visual Basic. He wanted us to create a "number bonds" application where the user would have to fill in the missing number of an addition problem. For example, 5 + _ = 8? Answer: 3. I wanted to try something different by allowing the user to choose any two numbers of his or her choice from a number grid that would sum up to a given total. This, combined with the time constraints, hopefully created a more interesting experience.

What are your hopes for the app?
I hope that the app will reach out beyond its intended audience. It also can simply be a fun game to play for people to test their mental math abilities. It's sort of addicting and makes it seem like you forgot how to do basic algebra! I want people to get a high score and challenge each other. I hope the app makes math a little more fun! I also hope to inspire other students to start developing apps now because it's very possible!

What is the most rewarding part of being a programmer and app developer?
I love to see some idea that I had in mind months ago and that I planned or sketched on paper come to life in a final product that other people can use! During this past school year, we made a lot of programs in Java emphasizing object-oriented programming. We always started on paper first and discussed it out loud – possible functions, potential problems, variable types, etc. The best part of the development process is watching a program that I planned and wrote work as intended!

What is the most challenging part of being a programmer and app developer?
Definitely keeping up with the pace of technology! Corona, the 2D engine that I used to develop Operation 99, had various updates while I was coding. Whenever I'd found something new, I tried it, and in most cases, the change allowed my code to become more efficient. But, sometimes, it's frustrating when you like the way that your code was before and then have to change it even though it worked perfectly. I used Corona's forums and community to help clear up any confusion. But that's the nature of technology – there's always something new to learn!

What are your plans for this summer?
Since I began the app toward the end of the school year, I wanted to get it published during the summer. It was released on July 15 to Google Play. I have plans to optimize the app for iOS and get it out to the App Store as soon as possible! The rest of my summer is dedicated to work, vacation and hanging out with friends! I'm also reading a few materials on app marketing and emailing out to companies for advice. Also, since I start my senior year this fall, I've been hunting down possible IT-related internships so that I can get some real-world experience during the upcoming school year.

What are your hopes for next school year?
I would like to maintain or increase my GPA, continue to excel in my AP classes – this year, I'm thinking about taking AP Physics, AP Statistics and AP Calculus BC – and, really, just have a good time! I'm officially a senior! And that also means that I should have an internship by fall. Hopefully, I can bring something new to the Programming magnet at Western Tech. I hope to get accepted into the colleges on my list, which include University of Maryland – College Park, Rutgers, University of Pennsylvania, New York University and, possibly, Carnegie Mellon or Cornell. It's worth a try!

To download Isiah's app, Operation 99, visit https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fxfstudios.Operation99.

 

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