ASU student wins big at Apple app development competition
Josh Tint helps people discover themselves with “Discover Me”
After questioning his own gender identity, Josh Tint, a second-year computer science student in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, realized he had an opportunity to use his own experience to help others.
“I observed that there were not many good resources for helping questioning people from a personal perspective,” Tint says. “A lot of discussion of gender identities is done in a very clinical or academic context, and it makes it hard for questioning people to figure out what they identify with.”
He decided to help bridge the gap and took his idea to Apple’s WWDC22 Swift Student Challenge, an app development competition. The competition takes place as part of Apple’s annual WWDC developers’ conference focusing on the company’s software and hardware.
“When I read that the competition had opened, it was a week before the deadline,” Tint says. “Luckily, I was able to budget some time, even though it was finals week.”
The result is “Discover Me,” an app that enables users to swipe through text to test out different pronouns. It also happens to be the first app Tint has ever fully built on his own.
“Discover Me” impressed Apple’s leadership, landing Tint among the challenge’s top three winners from among 350 participants worldwide. He is the first person from Arizona to win the competition.
“Winning was beyond my wildest dreams, especially because they selected only a few hundred people out of several thousand worldwide who make submissions,” Tint says. “As part of a smaller group of featured winners, I was also flown out to Cupertino for WWDC22. I got to show my app to Apple CEO Tim Cook and get notes from him and other Apple engineers, which was incredible.”
Tint credits his experience at ASU, his mentors and the faculty in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence for the resources and support he needed to earn a place among the competition’s winners — especially the skills he learned from professor Justin Selgrad in his CSE 240 Introduction to Programming Languages course, which Tint says helped him get his winning app functioning.
“The class emphasizes problem solving and seeing a project through from zero to finished,” Selgrad says. “One of my primary goals is for students to walk out better programmers than they walked in, and I’m excited that the lessons of the course helped Josh be successful.”
Beyond his achievement in the Apple event, Tint’s pursuits at ASU extend outside his studies. During his first year at the university, he served as an undergraduate teacher’s assistant for lecturer Helen Chavez’s FSE 100 Introduction to Engineering course. He was also captain of the Fulton Schools Academic Bowl’s Gold Team and a recipient of the highly sought after Flinn Scholarship, which led him to France this past summer to study hydrology and how to make natural environments more resistant to droughts and flooding.
Tint’s ties to ASU go back as far as 2015 as a sixth-grader when he participated in the Arizona FIRST LEGO® League, which he was invited back to judge this year.
“I could not be happier with my decision to go to ASU, especially with the Flinn Scholarship,” Tint says. “When I was choosing a school, I heard you could be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. Being a Flinn Scholar at ASU feels like being a big fish in a big pond.”
According to Tint’s mentor and Academic Bowl coach Timothy Rooney, associate director of academic achievement and student success for the Fulton Schools, Tint’s success comes in large part from the resources available at the schools.
“It’s clear how talented and committed Josh is to his studies and to coding,” Rooney says. “The Fulton Schools are an amazing asset, providing students with resources to open doors that otherwise wouldn’t be opened. Students who take advantage of these resources, like Josh, usually soar to great heights.”
Tint’s next goal is to advance computational linguistics and natural language processing.
“I’m passionate about mitigating bias in natural language processing and making sure that the algorithms we’re developing today aren’t going to hurt us in the future,” he says. “It’s crucial to foster an environment in digital spaces for all people. I’d eventually like to become a professor and further the field to make sure it works for everyone.”
In the meantime, Tint is collaborating on a new project: a web clipping app called Jotted, created by his fellow Flinn Scholars Sylvia Lopez and Brinlee Kidd. The app, a product of the Fulton Schools’ Luminosity Lab, won the student innovation competition Red Bull Basement Challenge in 2021.