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Young Achiever: Whizzkid’s student app

"Adventurous" teen programmer Ethan Humphrey and his trusty Mac: the 13-year-old Saltus student has created his own student app (Photo by Jonathan Bell)

An “adventurous” Saltus whizzkid’s bid to create a student planner for mobile phones has resulted in an app that could be used in schools Island-wide.

“It’s pretty much ready,” said 13-year-old Ethan Humphrey of his Saltus app, which he developed in his own free time. In the next week or so, Ethan’s product will go up on Apple Store and Google Store for fellow students to download, while he continues to tinker and update the app’s features.

The app lets a user check their Saltus email, with links to the school’s website and netclassrooms.

Tina Fountain, the school’s head of digital technologies and business enterprise, said Ethan’s app also logs homework with dates due, subject and description, as well as providing a two-week editable timetable that lets users record lessons and classrooms.

There are many ways to build an app; Ethan uses the App Inventor — software developed, appropriately enough, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the research university that the Year 8 student dreams of one day attending.

Using the programme, an app can be built for the Android phone by clicking and dragging blocks of code and corresponding them with actions. Ethan is also developing an iPhone version of the app.

“It’s taken many hours over many weeks in my free time,” Ethan acknowledged, which Ms Fountain said she finds particularly impressive: she’d been contemplating developing something like it for at least a year and a half but knew it would prove a daunting job.

“For someone to take that challenge and develop it in such a short space of time is fabulous — for someone of Ethan’s age to do this is incredible,” she said. “It’s very adventurous.

“I think there’s a market for his app. It’s customised to Saltus at the moment but with some experimenting it could be Island-wide. Any school could adapt it.”

By Ethan’s reckoning, he’s known that this was his dream since around the age of four.

“I decided to make it because I’m tech savvy — I figured my current solution isn’t working as well as I’d like it to; I’d love to be able to do that digitally. So I set out and decided to make the app for it.”

The product is now being tested by Ms Fountain and fellow students for its final tweaks.

“I run a software development team at RenRe,” said father Scott Humphrey, “but my wife Laura and I made a decision very early on not to push computer development on him. But Ethan was determined from a very young age.”

As for going to MIT after graduation, Mr Humphrey couldn’t be more supportive.

“Daddy went to Georgia Tech,” he conceded. “But Ethan decided to go farther north.”