12-year-old: Kids don't just want to play games, they want to make them

By John D. Sutter, CNN

There have been plenty of recent efforts to get kids into computer programming and app development:

Google has an app-development program for kids. Schools are buying iPads.

None of them seem to have worked all that well.

That's why it's particularly refreshing to hear from a young app developer like 12-year-old Thomas Suarez, who spoke at a recent TEDx event in California and who is trying to make it easier for young people to create tablet and smartphone programs.

    There simply aren't enough places kids can learn app development, he said.

    "A lot of kids these days like to play games," he said in a poised speech at the event, "but now they want to make them. And it's difficult -- because not many kids know where to go to find out how to make a program. I mean, for soccer, you could go to a soccer team. For violin, you could get lessons ... but what if you want to make an app? Kids' parents might have done some of these [other] things when they were young. But not many parents have written apps!"

    (That got a laugh -- probably from parents in the audience.)

    Suarez, from Manhattan Beach, California, is out to make app development easier for kids. He started an app development club at his school. And he's already launched apps in the Apple App store, including one that's hilariously titled Bustin Jieber -- a wack-a-mole game that makes fun of the pop star.

    "I created it because a lot of people at school disliked Justin Bieber a little bit," he said.

    The blog ReadWriteWeb has more on his efforts to teach app creation:

    With the help of his two younger brothers, Thomas lectures in front of a group of about 20 students at lunchtime. With the district part of the iPad pilot program, integrating iPads into the classroom and hour-long lunch lessons on the ins and outs of app creation, could the South Bay area of Los Angeles be the next blue chip incubator for tech talent? At least for the younger set.

    In case you want to get into app development, Suarez's method is pretty back-to-basics. Step one: Study programming languages. Step two: Download the Apple iOS developer's kit. Step three: Take on pop sensations.

    And, most importantly, step four: Help other kids do the same.