Dave Jha, ‘22, was excited to complete an internship abroad this summer after finishing classes online.
He instead found himself creating projects related to his computer science and business background — and gaining international recognition along the way.
On June 15, Jha was one of 350 students selected from 41 countries to win Apple’s WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC) 20 Swift Student Challenge.
The WWDC is normally a weeklong event on Apple’s San Jose, California, campus showcasing new softwares and technologies. The conference is centered around professional developers but also includes students by offering the WWDC Scholarship.
The winners of the challenge are normally invited to watch the WWDC keynote address and network with other developers and engineers. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was virtual this year.
To win this scholarship, or to accept the “Swift Student Challenge,” students across the world were challenged to develop a Swift playground, or a small version of an app.
Jha said the idea for his Swift playground stemmed from a Washington Post simulator simplifying the effects of social distancing and its relation to infectious viruses, such as COVID-19.
“I wanted to update that simulator in a Swift environment with the new information that’s come out on social distancing and the different techniques people have used,” he said.
In Jha’s Swift playground, dots representing people were placed in random spots of a rectangular space. Users could then adjust the speed of the dots moving, how many dots were in the simulator and whether they were social distancing or staying in one place of the rectangle.
Jha said if the event was in person, the WWDC would’ve connected him and other students to Apple on a deeper level than they ever offer.
He was sent Apple merchandise, offered a free year of a developer membership and had a one-on-one session with an Apple engineer.
Hank Korth, co-director of the CSB program, was excited to hear Jha won the Swift Student Challenge.
“To me, this is kind of the flagship thing of ‘What is CSB about,’” Korth said. “It’s excellence in computer science applied to solving real problems, or solving problems in a way that real people can use.”
Korth credits the student association’s current and past boards for providing special tech sessions for CSB students. He believes the student entrepreneurs and developers have greatly benefited from networking with those in their community. Coming from Lehigh’s CSB program, Jha has skills in coding and designing websites.
University of Michigan student Krishna Koka, ‘23, knew exactly who he would go to when he needed help with a timely technological project.
Koka founded PPE4NYC, a nonprofit organization that has supplied personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it was out of love for his mom, a gastroenterologist in Poughkeepsie, New York, who would come home from work anxious and scared about the lack of personal protective equipment in her office.
“Life was going on as usual as chaos and mayhem were being blasted through the TV screen,” Koka said. “There was a disconnect I really didn’t jive with.”
Koka began to 3-D print face shields in his basement. He asked Jha to build a website where people could request personal protective equipment and donate to their cause. In two to three days, Jha completed the website.
Jha is the chief technology officer of PPE4NYC, and the organization has raised over $15,000. With support from other team members, including Lehigh students, face shields have mostly been distributed to people and places in New York City but are starting to expand to the rest of the county.
PPE4NYC wants to revolutionize the way of donating to charity.
“We’re really focusing on giving the real-time impact to people who have donated to our site and our GoFundMe,” Jha said. “One of the worst feelings is donating to a great cause but not seeing the effect of that. We really want people to link the two together.”
At Lehigh, Jha is involved in the music program as a pianist in the jazz band. He does tours for the Admissions office and also co-founded the New Ventures club encouraging students to bring their technological ideas to life.
Jha said with all of his outside projects, he hopes to maintain balance at school and eventually wants to pursue a career in iOS development.