Marin Teen’s recycling app is a winner

Ever had an idea for a great app but not sure how you’d start making it?

That was how Redwood senior Olivia Wong started developing apps. She wanted to help people know which products they threw away were recyclable, and made an app to help them find out.

img_2276Using a basic online class from Treehouse and some YouTube videos, she put together her app using Apple’s Xcode and programming language Swift, videoed the demo at home, and sent it into the Congressional App Challenge. And the result was so good she won the competition for her district in California and was presented her prize by Congressman Jared Huffman (pictured).

Despite having taught herself everything she needed to not only make the app but put it into the Apple AppStore, Olivia is modest about her achievement.

‘I just have all these ideas to make apps,’ says Olivia. ‘If I have an idea, I learn whatever is needed to do it.’

img_2274Olivia says the hardest thing about making her app was building the database to sort the recyclables. ‘I set it up so that it would show information specific to one object and to a group of objects.’ she says. ‘I tried about four different ways before I worked it out.’ Olivia says creating the app for the Congressional App Challenge helped her complete it. ‘I’m a bit of a procrastinator so it’s sometimes helpful (albeit stressful) to have a deadline,’ she says.


img_2272-3This perseverance combined with a d-i-y mindset is sure to take her far. Apart from winning the Congressional App Challenge, Olivia has earned college credits for her computer skills gained by building apps and learning robotics, and is already sharing her knowledge by teaching the programming language Python to her younger sister. She is applying to study Computer Science at the major UCs, and sees computer science as a definite career choice for her.

‘It’s always a learning process,’ says Olivia, who has another gaming app already in the AppStore that she not only coded but wrote music for. She is building another app on cells that she hopes to add to the App Store this year.

‘I think a large part of why girls are less likely to take computer science classes is that sometimes there are literally only guys in these classes. Even if girls want to take programming classes, they might be intimidated by the fact that the field is already so male-dominated. I think having more classes that are specifically for girls will really encourage more women to be involved in computer science and technology.’

Olivia’s pitch for Is it Recyclable? on YouTube

Congressional App Challenge

Olivia will be helping teach app development to girls in Marin, part of a new class at TheCyberGarage in San Anselmo that starts in January 2017. Readers of this article can get 15% off the class by using the code FRIEND at checkout.
Background article on The Cyber Garage app classes for girls

Intro to App Development, High School
Intro to App Development, Middle School