Apple's Swift Has Profound Impact on App Camp for Girls

Apple's Swift programming language has earned praise from developers the world over, but the power and simplicity of this new programming language was brought home by the profound impact it had on July's App Camp for Girls. We finished the apps in this year's App Camp so fast, it was as if we got an extra day with our young developers.

I started volunteering with App Camp for Girls in spring of 2013. Last week was the sixth camp in Portland, and the first using Swift as the development language for building apps. In previous years, camp curriculum used Objective-C to build iOS apps.

Generally, the week breaks down like this: Monday, we introduce Xcode and Objective-C, then build a calculator app. Tuesday we explain more Objective-C, then get started on the quiz app, which is a "template" the camp attendees use to build a fully functioning iOS app along with some discussion of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), and more working on the quiz. Thursday we take a field trip to a software company (three times to Panic, once to Urban Airship), with the last of the quiz app hopefully done since we work on the presentation that each team gives to a panel of investors. On Friday afternoon, the presentation is given, the panel asks questions of each team, and the week comes to an end.

Swift on a projector at App Camp for Girls 2015Swift in action at App Camp 2015. Illustrated using cats. Of course. 

July 2015 at App Camp was like a different place. There wasn't as much need for explanation while introducing Swift (compared to Objective-C), and as a result the calculator app went smoothly and took less time than it had before. Tuesday we walked through some programming concepts and a larger Swift tutorial, after which the teams were off and running. It was almost like they had walked in knowing a programming language and we just set them to a particular task, not as though they had just been introduced to this language.

There was no rush at any point, nobody was feeling the pressure of a deadline (attendees or volunteers), and the apps came out wonderfully. With the extra time available for the presentations, each team had time for extra rehearsal and embellishing their slides with gradient backgrounds and other artwork.

App Camp for Girls July 2015 pitching app ideasHere's the App Camp developers sketching their own app ideas.

If you are a developer still considering Swift, please stop considering and go take it for a test drive, or get your feet wet, or whatever metaphor you prefer. App Camp has always had a lot of excitement around the actual writing code, and with the advent of Swift that excitement is even easier to translate into an app. So far the volunteers all really like the transition too. Even our interns (previous attendees) talked about how it was a lot nicer to use Swift than Objective-C. I can't wait to see what happens in the final Portland session later this month.