An unassuming kid takes the stage, dressed simply in a blue shirt and khakis. He is holding an iPad in his arms, as he begins to deliver a speech to the gathered audience. What sets this apart from a presentation that could be found in any middle school is the fact that this child is Thomas Suarez, a technological wunderkind who is making his first TED conference presentation.
TED conferences, or ‘TED Talks’ are a series of conferences and presentations aimed at bringing the brightest and best minds in the world together and giving them a stage to present their ideas to the world in an engaging and thought provoking way. Nearly all topics and schools of thought are represented, and most of the conferences are available to watch online for free. Previous TED presenters include Steven Hawking, Bill Clinton, Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Gates, and a cadre of Nobel Prize winners.
Joining these illustrious ranks is Thomas Suarez, a sixth grader from Los Angeles who has his sights on being one of the great computer programmers and innovators of our time. As a child, he showed a pointed interest in computers and by the age of 12, Suarez has already mastered programming languages such as Python, C, and Java. How does Suarez combine all of this knowledge? By creating apps for the iPhone and iPad. He also currently has two apps that are available for download in the Apple App Store.
Take for example Suarez’s most successful iPhone app: ‘Bustin Jieber.’ It’s a ‘Whack-a-Mole’ styled game that allows players to bop pop star Justin Bieber on the head. Already sounds great, doesn’t it? This is no simple tap game, however, as the app now has multiplayer support and allows players to talk to each other using voice chat. Suarez’s very first offering was somewhat simpler, an app called ‘Earth Fortune’ that would shade a picture of our planet a different color depending on its prediction. Suarez is now finding himself very busy, not just completing sixth grade, but with his own startup company called CarrotCorp.
It’s refreshing to see someone so young with such an extreme focus on his craft, especially when his focus is turned towards helping others with similar interests live out their ideas. Suarez noticed quickly that his hobby obviously wasn’t getting the kind of support or attention that more traditional extracurricular activities might get. “For soccer, you could go to a soccer team. For violin, you could get lessons for a violin…but what if you want to build an app?”
He continues briefly, “…kid’s parents may remember some of these things from when they were young – but how many parents have made apps?” Very few have, and it’s also true that most parents don’t have children like Thomas Suarez. No matter what challenge he takes on or encounters next, it is certain that this young man’s future is very bright.