Spotlight on San Diego’s Family-Friendly App Developers

Parent developers in the Moms With Apps network recently met up in beautiful Encinitas (Southern California) to share their apps and stories.   Some are veterans in the kid-friendly and educational apps business who already have multiple apps, and some have just recently released their first app or are still hard at work trying to publish their first app.  Regardless of their experience, they are making a difference in mobile content choices for families.  Here are their introductions, so you can get to know them better…

MWA Developers hang out at the Pannikin Coffee House in North San Diego

Marcel Widarto – Sight Words Hangman

When my daughter was in kindergarten, every week she would come home with a new set of sight words she had to learn.  I spend a lot of time with her working on practicing sight words.  She loves practicing her sight words so much that she would always ask me if she can practice them while we’re at the grocery store, doctor’s office, etc., but I never had her sight words with me, so we would practice only the words I remembered in my head.  I thought to myself that maybe I should create an app for her sight words so I can have it on me all the time…and the idea of Sight Words Hangman was born.

Even though I am a software/web developer, I don’t have any Objective C or iOS development experience so I had a hard time in the beginning.  It took me about 4 months of part time development to complete and publish Sight Words Hangman and it was a fun and challenging journey.  I was able to get my whole family involved. My wife Michelle was the original voice for the game and both my daughter and my son beta tested the app.

Since then I have ported Sight Words Hangman to Android and Windows Phone 7.  I am currently working on adding many new features to Sight Words Hangman based on user feedback, and also working on my next app.

Natasa Gajic – @Reks

As a mom I always felt I had to go above and beyond to help our children with their academic development. As a linguist and a teacher I felt I had to do more than just check their homework for correctness. So, I started creating activities that would focus on one topic or something that was especially challenging for my children! Such projects filled our home with tons of paper, posters, stickers, and other creative material. Then I received my first iPad! The children loved the apps and what they could do with them. My husband, a software engineer, suggested he put some of my ideas in electronic format. Soon after that we had our first @Reks apps released in iTunes.

App developing has become a family enterprise. The children (almost 2, 5 and 8) not only test and use @Reks apps, but they also do narration and some artwork. So far @Reks has 21 apps in iTunes which can be divided into three major groups: spelling, pre-K early learning, and math facts (K through 3rd grade).

We are proud to say that we have had great response by the users. We have worked with some educators and parents of special needs children on adding more features to best meet their needs. @Reks apps have been made with the following ideas in mind:

  • Relaxed learning environment improves learning
  • Children should be rewarded for their success
  • Children should not be overwhelmed with length and complexity of an educational activity

These ideas guided us in creating Build A Word Easy Spelling Apps; Caboose – Learn to Recognize and Complete Patterns (in English, German and Swedish); Tick Tock Clock Learn to Tell Time Using Digital and Analog Clock (in English, German and Serbian); Memory Game Letters, Numbers Shapes,and Colors; Memory Game Spelling Words; Memory Game: Addition, Memory Game: Subtraction, Memory Game: Multiplication; Memory Game: Division (all four memory games with German localization); Arithmetic Invaders Math Facts Grade K; Arithmetic Invaders Math Facts Grade 1; Arithmetic Invaders Math Facts Grade 2; Arithmetic Invaders Math Facts Grade 3.

Kevin and Emily Connell – JumbleBugs

Kevin and Emily Connell are currently about 40% done with their first children’s storybook app, Bloomie and the Birthday Blunder.  It is a story about the Jumble Bugs, ladybugs that are “jumbled” up with other things.  The characters were created as plush toys and now we have the iPad book app platform to use to tell stories about them.  Emily Connell created the characters and does all the animation, and app authoring using Demibooks Composer.  Kevin Connell wrote the story and we have partnered with Kristine Marsh to do the illustrations.  We hope to release the first book app in March 2012.

Nashina Asaria, Jadaplay

One of the first things you notice about Dollar Dogs is that it’s in landscape mode with the camera view always on. It goes back to what started Craig and I on this journey.  I wanted to build an iPhone application. My kids were spending more and more time with Apple devices and I want to find a positive way to embrace this because it certainly isn’t going away.  I figure if I could build an application I would not only have a venue to “work” with my kids, but also understand what the process is and leverage this for other ventures.  So far it’s been a great experience.  My kids have been, and continue to be, really involved with the design and creation of Dollar Dogs – from choosing the character, to testing every build, to recommending design changes and even choosing the name of the application. As far as they are concerned this is their application and they are excited to share the news with their friends that it’s available on the App Store.

The other motivation for Craig and I was to discover what the issues are for implementing Augmented Reality.  Craig was the technical leading in developing Qualcomm’s Augmented Reality platform, but in the entire 3 and half years of working on the platform, never saw a really good use for the technology. I was just introduced to the technology in September 2011 and I was totally fascinated.  Here’s a technology that actually uses the digital medium to bring people into the real world.  That to me, as a mother, is very powerful.

One of my big concerns with my kids spending more and more time on devices is that the time spent there is away from reality and no one really knows the impact this will have on them as people.  Will they miss out on developing the social skills to interact with other people so that they can develop rich and meaningful personal relationships?  Will they learn to appreciate the real world with all it’s textures and non linear aspects? Augmented Reality in an application brings the user into reality without making the user put down their device and that aspect fascinated me.  Furthermore, as we built the application we noticed that not only were we bringing ourselves into the real world with augmented reality, but we were taking pictures all the time.  As a result, we began to ask: what if we have the app work in reality without the augmented reality part of our app?  We ended up with an application where the user is always looking at the real world all the time and I’m excited to see how it is received.

So far all the kids that have used it love it – they take pictures like crazy and we think what we’ve built is a photo application for kids that has fun digital aspects.  I’m happy because I think the application let’s my kids enjoy their devices while still being grounded in the real world and with the added benefit of being social by taking and sharing pictures. [Editor’s Note: I love that aspect of your app’s concept, about “still being grounded in the real world”!]

Robert and Tiffany Harrison, RWH Technology

My wife Tiffany, who is a speech language pathologist, provides therapy to children, many of whom are children with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disorders.  In 2010, she got an iPad and quickly found it was an incredibly useful tool for speech therapy.  Children enjoy interacting with the device.  She also no longer has to carry as many therapy materials to each session.  It wasn’t long until Tiffany started to come up with app ideas of her own.

In 2011, using my background in software development, we developed our first app, SpeakColors.  SpeakColors has helped children with special needs improve their speech and language skills.  The app encourages the use of simple phrases using color words and common objects, such as food, animals and toys.  The design of the interface is very clean, so that your child does not get distracted.  By pressing a color button, such as “orange”, your child can listen to how the color word should be spoken.  By pressing on a photo of an object, such as “juice”, your child can listen to how the name of the object should be spoken.  There are record and play buttons so your child can practice speaking the names of the colors and objects and then listen to their own voice.  We have received a lot of great feedback that children love to hear the sound of their own voice as they practice speaking the colors and words.

Our focus is on developing speech therapy apps.  We take great pride in developing apps that can help speech therapists, teachers, parents and children.

Tim Tembreull, Mobad Media

Although Mobad Media is headquartered in Los Angeles, producer Tim Tembreull works primarily from his home in Carlsbad and was thrilled to join the San Diego “moms” at the Pannikin on Sunday and share Mobad’s growing library of 3D interactive story apps including The Penelope Rose, Billie the Unicorn, The Year of the Dragon, and The Furniture is Alive. Mobad is also the creator of the Hidden Pictures games for Highlights magazine.

What incredible stories! Thanks for sharing here at the Moms With Apps blog 🙂

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