Flappy Bird, Candy Crush, Trivia Crack, and Stuck in Orbit–what do they all have in common? They are all addictive apps that students use to escape the monotonous world of school and stress. But which one is not like the others? Stuck in Orbit was created by SHS student Zachary Bernstein ’16, making this app much more impressive.
Bernstein got the inspiration for Stuck in Orbit when he was playing with his dog and watching her run in circles. He thought it would be cool to make a circular version of Flappy Bird. His game works by clicking the screen to move a little circle, or “the planet,” upwards in order to avoid the sun in the center and the little rectangles placed around the screen. If the circle hits the sun, the rectangles, or the circle enclosing the game, then the game is over. So far, about 300 people have downloaded the app.
Bernstein has always been interested in computers, but it was in seventh grade when he really began to pursue his interest in creating apps. It all started when Bernstein found a copy of iPhone and iPad Game Development For Dummies at Barnes & No- ble. He was intrigued, so he decided to buy more books and take an online course, which were his only means of learning how to create an app. “I never had the opportunity to take the computer science course at school, but I find it fun to have to figure things out on my own,” he said. Creating an app definitely takes a lot of patience and perseverance, but Bernstein possesses both of these qualities. Bernstein’s most tedious task was trying to make one planet move in his envisioned planet circle. “I had all the math to make it go around in a circle, and I tried this really simple approach to do so, but the planet kept on turning around at some point and going in the opposite direction.” However, Bernstein continued to try new mathemati- cal expressions each day until finally, after three weeks, he achieved his desired result.
Bernstein’s work does not end with Stuck in Orbit. He wants to continue creating apps, as ex- emplified by his current work on a new social networking app for the SHS Byte club. He is also waiting to be inspired with a new idea for another type of app.
If you’re a teen who is interested in creating apps, you should “always try to tinker around on your own and try to challenge yourself by pursuing your own ideas,” encouraged Bernstein. Although many might consider high school students too young or inexperienced to play with the big dogs and program their own apps, Bernstein’s success is proof that such a feat is not only possible, but can be both successful and fulfilling. He gained more from his experience by
putting to use all the complicated programming steps required to design an app than by just reading books and taking an online course. In Bernstein’s opinion, “hands-on learning” is more effective than reading or listening when it comes to designing technology. “Creating apps is something you can feel accomplished about. Some people make art on their own, play music outside of school, or have other hobbies that they are proud of. For me, it is programming,” enthused Bernstein.
by Rebecca Newman