Porter Gaud student selected to go to Apple conference after creating new app

Tillson Galloway, an eighth-grader at Porter-Gaud, has been invited to attend the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco after he developed an iPhone app for the young programmers contest.

Porter-Gaud eighth-grader Tillson Galloway has always been into technology. Even when his mom would try to get him interested in other things, he would always go back to tinkering with computers.

"His third-grade teacher said, 'Just let Tillson be who he is and he'll be fine,' " said Galloway's mother, Heather Norton. "And now he is who he is, and he's seeing success for all the hours he's put in."

Galloway, 14, is one of only 200 young computer programmers from around the world selected to attend the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco next month. He's the only student from South Carolina.

Students ages 13-17 and those over 18 enrolled in college were tasked with creating an autobiographical application using Apple software. Submissions were judged by Apple developers. The reward was a free ticket to attend the conference June 2 through June 6. Tickets normally cost $1,599.

Galloway decided to base his app on the game "Doodle Jump," a popular iPhone app that aims to move a character up a series of platforms without falling by tilting the phone from side to side. In Galloway's version, he's the main character with his face bouncing up platforms that feature a timeline of his life. Galloway estimates that he wrote around 300 lines of computer code to create the app. He programmed code to do things like bounce the character up when it hits the platform and randomizing the placement of the platforms.

Every student at Porter-Gaud takes computer science in grades 7-9 as well as 11th grade. Additional courses are offered as electives.

Doug Bergman, chairman of the computer science department at Porter-Gaud, said the idea behind computer science courses is to teach students how to program any kind of device whether its a tablet, laptop, iPhone or robot.

What make's Galloway's app so impressive, Bergman said, isn't the game itself but the complexity of the code behind it which uses specific wording beyond simple commands.

Bergman is already thinking of ways to expand the computer science courses at Porter-Gaud to challenge Galloway as he gets into high school.

"He's not going to be satisfied with a little Tetris game any more," he said.

Galloway said he worked on the app for four to five hours a day for 10 days until he submitted it April 14. On April 28 he learned that he'd been selected to attend the conference, which is famous for its keynote speech and debut of new Apple products.

Galloway has received letters from Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford congratulating him on his achievement, but he's not quick to mentioned that. Instead the mild-mannered teen is more excited about meeting Apple engineers and possibly seeing the new iWatch.

What matters the most to him is the satisfaction of creating something new.

"I just like being able to envision something in my head and then make it come up on my screen," he said.