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19-Year-Old Indian Student Wins Apple Award for Creating a COVID-19 Social Distancing Playground

Palash Taneja is one of 350 Swift Student Challenge winners from 41 different countries and regions.

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19-Year-Old Indian Student Wins Apple Award for Creating a COVID-19 Social Distancing Playground

Palash Taneja has won Apple’s Swift Student Challenge award

Highlights
  • Palash Taneja has finished freshman year at University of Texas
  • His Swift Playground shows the benefits of social distancing
  • Apple is giving winners a free WWDC 2020 jacket and pin set

Palash Taneja, a 19-year-old student from New Delhi, has been selected for Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2020 Swift Student Challenge award. He is one of 350 Swift Student Challenge winners from 41 different countries and regions. For the challenge, he created a Swift Playground that teaches coding while simulating how a pandemic moves through a population, showing how precautions such as social distancing and masks can help slow infection rates. Dave Jha, an Indian origin student of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, also won the award for creating a COVID-19 simulator that showed the benefits of social distancing.

Taneja just finished his freshman year at the University of Texas, and has battled a severe case of dengue in the past. He says that the disease inspired him to learn programming. “That whole experience of two to three months of suffering — I think that really inspired me to learn programming and to use it as a problem-solving tool,” Taneja elaborated in Apple's blog.

Apart from the Swift playground, he has also created a Web-based tool that uses machine learning to predict how mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever would spread. The Swift Playground was created against the backdrop of COVID-19 and it looks to help educate young people about the benefits of social distancing and masks.

In India, he has also helped create a program that translates popular online education videos into roughly 40 languages – helping underprivileged children learn. “I really enjoy working with children, and I think education is one of the things that can create the biggest impact in someone's life,” Taneja explains, “especially someone in a developing country.”

Dave Jha, an Indian origin student from the US, also got selected for Apple's Swift Student Challenge award. Jha took to Twitter to announce that he had been selected for the Swift Student Challenge award by Apple. He was selected for his COVID-19 simulator that also showed the benefits of social distancing. His simulator showed people represented by small dots, and infected people were shown as red dots. The COVID-19 social distancing simulator has the ability to toggle speed, number of people, asymptomatic conditions, social distancing, forced distancing, and a game mode.

Apple is giving winners a free WWDC 2020 jacket and pin set. These students will also get to download pre-released software, request lab appointments, and connect with Apple engineers over WWDC content on the forums.


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Tasneem Akolawala Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com. More
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