Malaysian Teen Who Taught Herself Coding Wins Apple's Swift Student Challenge 2024

Shah Alam-based Nur Alia Jannah impressed the tech giant with her iOS app, Tracklist.

Cover image via Nur Alia Jannah / Apple Malaysia

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Meet Nur Alia Jannah, a 16-year-old app developer prodigy who recently impressed Apple at the recently held Swift Student Challenge (SSC) 2024

At just 16, she created Tracklist, an "app playground" designed for music reviews that not only won her the prestigious SSC but also has the potential to fill a notable gap in the App Store ecosystem.

What's remarkable is that Nur Alia, who studies at Shah Alam's Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seksyen 16, is a self-taught coder.

"I got into coding after learning about the SSC and was inspired by the apps showcased at WWDC 2021," she told SAYS, adding this was her third time participating in the challenge.

Nur Alia Jannah is a self-taught coder.

Image via Nur Alia Jannah / Apple Malaysia

Despite not owning a MacBook initially, Alia’s determination led her to discover Swift Playgrounds on the iPad, a platform she found accessible and engaging for beginners

Her early coding experiences with puzzle-based learning modules laid a solid foundation for her future projects.

Apart from her coding skills, it was also her keen insight and understanding of music reviews that led to her win.

"I initially designed the app to track specific songs I listened to — such as my reviews of albums, artists, or songs. Then I realised there wasn't an app for people to review songs,” Alia explained.

This realisation highlighted a significant gap in the digital space where movies and books had dedicated review platforms like Rotten Tomatoes and Goodreads, but music did not.

Tracklist emerged as a pioneering solution, enabling users to review music by title, artist, and genre, while providing a new avenue for music enthusiasts to express their opinions and discover new tracks.

Creating Tracklist was not without its challenges. Over the three weeks it took to develop the app, Alia faced technical hurdles, including a significant data loss incident

Nur Alia Jannah's Tracklist allows iOS users to review music.

Image via Nur Alia Jannah / Apple Malaysia

"I lost my app files at one point and only had outdated backup code, so I had to redo some parts," she shared.

This experience underscored the importance of regular backups and persistence in problem-solving.

Feedback from friends, family, and industry experts played a crucial role in refining the app’s functionality and user interface, showcasing the collaborative spirit essential to successful app development.

The SSC provided Alia with invaluable lessons and opportunities

"SSC taught me that there is never too small of an idea and those ideas can always turn into something bigger and more wonderful," she noted.

Alia’s emphasis on consistency, openness to feedback, and continuous learning are principles that resonate deeply within the developer community.

The support from Apple, she believes, is instrumental in nurturing young talents.

"It is important for companies like Apple to educate and encourage students and teachers to learn and teach coding — the language of technology," she asserted.

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