Amit Kalra — Students In Tech

Could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Amit! I’m from San Francisco, and I got interested in coding when I was 9 years old playing a game called Roblox. I’m a junior in high school.
What is your main involvement in CS to date?
I have an app right now called 6284 Calc and it’s been in the news a couple times. It does math homework for you, it solves it completely, and shows you the steps and everything.
Is computer science something you were introduced to at your school, or something you’ve pursued on your own?
I’ve done all of it outside of school. We don’t really have that in class.
Could you tell me a little more about 6284 Calc?
I started that last year because I was failing geometry, and there were so many things I had to catch up on to get credit so I made this console that did my math homework, and I brung my computer to do my thing in class, and my friend saw it so he wanted it on his phone to cheat, so I didn’t have any knowledge of making iPhone apps, so I started learning it from Google how to make a UI, and from there I made one thing for geometry that was what we were covering in class, and I ran it up to his phone.
It’s interesting because I think most people would assume creating an app is a lot more difficult than doing your geometry homework. How were you able to create the app when you were having trouble in geometry class?
In the app, it’s just based off algorithms, you just need to know how it’s done one time, you don’t need to keep doing it multiple times. You just need to figure out how to get it done once and then write it into the code and render your values.
What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
6284 Calc is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on because I won an Apple Developer Conference ticket with that app, and I also have a game that I made on Roblox that has over a million visits and more than half a million likes.
What was your experience like at the Apple Developer Conference, and what did you learn there?
Every year, they let students to submit an app for them. They award 350 scholarship tickets every year and a normal ticket price is $2000 and lottery-based. So if Apple approves your app — if they like your app — they will give you a ticket there and you get to go to an orientation and meet the CEO of Apple, you get special seats during the keynote, and you’re invited to the event. During the event you learn from a lot of engineers, like any code problems you have, like a lot of Apple engineers can help you solve that. They also give you advice for your apps so you know how stuff works behind the scenes.
How did you learn about this Apple Developer Conference opportunity?
It was on their website, and it just said “apply for this scholarship” last year, and last year I didn’t have any coding experience. So I just started learning coding. For the past year, I was just like “nah, I’ll just do it next time” and then before my app, I started coding.
What was the most valuable part of the conference for you?
Networking. I met a lot of friends over there, I met Ahmed over there, I met a lot of Apple executives, a lot of connections basically.
How did you get interested in technology?
So my mom got an iPhone before, and she didn’t know how to use it so she just gave it to me. After that I didn’t really know what to do, all the apps were just cool and fascinating and when the App Store came around, my cousins phone was jailbroken and he couldn’t do it to mine and I figured out how to do it myself and from there I just got interested since it was so cool. I want to tweak my phone like that.
So with Roblox, I first started just playing it, and then I found out that you can also create your own games on it, and I was just like “whoa, these people are making their games, so I’ll try making mine” and I just read a PDF that’s on their website to learn how build things.
Since you’re self-taught, what advice or resources do you want to share to other people who are interested in doing the same?
I just Googled a lot. StackOverflow, which is one of the main things I used. I never had a problem. But anything I really needed done I would just search and learn from there.
A lot of people tell you that you can’t learn computer science if you don’t do good in school or if you’re not good at math or whatever, but they’re completely stupid because you don’t need to be good at school to code, you just need to have a passion for something. And if that’s what drives you, just go for it. Don’t listen to other people. I remember for my app, one of my other friends told me that it’s trash, that nothing’s going to happen, and now I have over 11,000 downloads, I’ve been on ABC, I’ve gotten an Apple scholarship from it. You just have to work for it, you can’t quit when people are going to tell you it’s not going to work. Believe in yourself. Just because it didn’t work for them doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.