There are now more than a million apps each for Apple and Android devices and tens of billions of downloads, with no end in sight.

There are apps in every imaginable category and a whole “app economy” in full swing. Entire companies have been founded on app development. But is there room for young students to play in this game? You bet there is, and below we’ll profile some kids who are making apps for real.

First, Some Background

According to a Wall Street Journal story, Apple opened up its developer conference to 13 – 17-year-olds for the first time in 2012, and gave 150 teens a scholarship to cover the $1,599 cost of attending. It came about because Apple was inundated by requests to attend from youngsters who already had apps in the App Store.

In the same article, the Journal highlighted iD Tech Camps, which says it’s the top summer camp for teaching kids how to program apps during one-week intensive programs at over 100 locations. Of course, it’s a lot cheaper to learn from an app development book or you might check out reviews of these online app developer courses.

While most kids can’t get rich quick by creating an app, if nothing else creating an app can be a great way to get your son or daughter more excited about this wave of computer technology.

STEM Apps by Kids

Not surprisingly, students who are already into the so-called STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are building any number of STEM-related apps.

Robert Nay of Utah was 14, in 2011, when he launched “Bubble Ball” which he called a “physics puzzle game, where you will test your ingenuity and thinking skills to get the bubble to the goal.” In a profile on ABC News, he explained that his friends, who knew he was a whiz at computers, challenged him to build an app. For a while, it rated even higher than Angry Birds, and the free version has been downloaded 16 million times! In-app add-ons cost 99 cents.

Way Back in 2009

Owen Voorhees of Hinsdale, Illinois was only 11 in 2009 when his app, MathTime, appeared in the App Store and became the 13th most popular paid, educational app. He studied college-level computer science textbooks to learn how. MathTime, still offered in the App Store, is an update of the old flash card drills, and “a great way to increase your speed and master your math facts.” In an article in INC. Magazine, Owen said “I thought it would be cool to make something work, to make a little money, to do something like this and see it up” on the App Store. His 9-year-old-brother, Finn, supplied the design using Photoshop. Quite the brotherly duo!

Design an App, Give a TED Talk!

Meanwhile, Thomas Suarez of Los Angeles wasn’t content to just design a couple of apps and set up his own company – at the ripe old age of 12 – but he delivered a great little TED Talk and started an App Club at school where he can help fellow students learn how to design apps. His fun game is called Bustin Jieber, a take-off on guess-whose-name. Like Whack-a-Mole, you try to catch Bustin Jieber as he scoots around the screen, or you can replace him with anyone in your photo library.

As Thomas says about his App Club, “A lot of kids these days like to play games, but now they want to make them.” Perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to say that students who make ingenious app games may someday solve complex STEM puzzles in the world around us. These young innovators give an older generation hope!

Is your child interested in STEM? Do he or she have an idea for an app or another invention that could solve a problem or make the world a better place? Encourage your child to share their invention in K12’s STEM contest for a chance to win cool prizes!

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