Lexline Johnson isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, this 16-year-old student at Academy of Holy Names taught herself coding over two years so she could ultimately develop an app in just two weeks. But that’s not it. This app, called “Quantum Entanglement,” is formatted much like an interactive textbook on quantum physics, and Lexline had to not only implement the program development she knows how to do, but also incorporate code for interactive animations to enhance the user experience – something she was less familiar with. Oh, and then this app just happens to win Apple’s Swift Student Challenge, the most prestigious award for teens that only a small group of students from across the world earn each year. The award grants Lexline one year of the Apple developer membership which allows users to publish apps on the App Store, and the opportunity to meet other developers and receive feedback on designs. It goes without saying that this curious and tenacious coder and developer is a kid we should know.
TBPM: Please explain how you became interested in coding and why you wanted to learn about programming and app development.
Lexline Johnson: Although technology has always fascinated me, my interest in programming sparked in my freshman year of high school during my first programming competition, which was Apple’s coding competition (Swift Student Challenge) in 2020. The competition challenged me to create my own app. While I had a very weak grasp on programming at the time, it was the realization of what I could create with my code that inspired me to pursue programming beyond the competition.
TBPM: From the time you knew you could create an app to learning that you won a global competition, what did that preparation look and feel like?
Lexline Johnson: Learning programming took a lot of time, practice and projects. I spent much of my time outside of school reading articles and taking courses on programming. I think what helped me learn the most, though, was diving into my own projects and using Google and Stack Overflow to figure things out as I went.
Creating an app within two weeks for the competition was by no means an easy task, and I had to delegate time for planning, designing and then finally coding (and incorporating my graphics into my code, which was one of the hardest parts!). It took a lot of work and coding till late at night, but I’m happy with how it turned out. I think it was a great learning experience, and perhaps most importantly, it was a lot of fun! (There’s just something about staying up late with my friends when we’re all working on our projects for the same competition that really excites me!)
TBPM: What expectations did you have for yourself when you entered the Apple’s Swift Student Challenge in 2022?
Lexline Johnson: Going into the competition, my main goal was to just turn in something. However, as I worked on my app, I made a lot of progress and I was able to go beyond my initial expectations. At the end of the day, I’m proud of how my app turned out, and I’m honored to have been selected as a winner of the Swift Student Challenge.
TBPM: Tell us how winning this prestigious award has shaped your next creation, college selection or even a future career path.
Lexline Johnson: Winning the Swift Student Challenge has been very inspirational for me. The award has inspired me to continue programming and creating apps to share with others. I’m excited for the future date when I can release my first app on the App Store!
TBPM: What you’ve accomplished to date has required an incredible amount of creativity, technical agility and grit. Where do you get this from? Who inspires these passions (which include quantum physics) in your life?
Lexline Johnson: My sister, Lorraine, has been a huge inspiration for me. She always encourages me to follow my passions, even when they may seem impossible or out of reach. She reminds me that there’s always so much more I can do. She’s also always eager to be the first person to beta test my apps.
My interest in quantum physics was inspired by a lot of the documentaries I used to watch. When I was younger, I would sit with my sister, and together we would watch physics documentaries until late at night. From the Higgs field to quantum entanglement, the documentaries always captured my interest and inspired me to learn more. Although quantum physics was obviously (but unfortunately) not covered in my physics courses, I was able to pursue my interest in my own time through online videos and articles (kudos to Kurzgesagt and Quanta Magazine).
TBPM: Your knowledge and skills are truly unique and extraordinary. How have you found a community of peers that share similar interests, and how have your Academy friends supported your journey?
Lexline Johnson: I’m actually a part of some online communities that share interests in technology, programming, iOS development and other areas. Joining online communities has been an amazing opportunity for me to connect with other developers, get different perspectives on my own projects, and just really get to share and enjoy my experience with programming with others. My community has also been very supportive and inspires me to continue pursuing my passions.
In addition to my online friends, my friends and classmates at Academy have been very encouraging, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with other programmers and technology enthusiasts in my clubs. I’m currently in the robotics club at my school, and I find it fascinating to be able to work with so many other students who share my interest in technology.
TBPM: What else do you enjoy doing outside of school?
Lexline Johnson: I love creating digital art in my spare time, from drawing anime to creating pixel art animations. To me, it’s a way of expressing myself. I’ve also been playing the viola for seven years.
TBPM: What’s next for you?
Lexline Johnson: I’m very interested in machine learning and data science, so that’s the area I’m planning to pursue in college and beyond. I’m very excited to see where my future in technology takes me.
Originally published in January 2023 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.