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Tacoma boy, 12, develops iPhone game app

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By C.R. Roberts
The News Tribune
TACOMA -- Logan Howell doesn't quite remember when he first sat down at a computer. Maybe it was in preschool, maybe before. He's been there ever since, and now, at 12, he has written his own app.
All by himself.
He learned the necessary programming languages and has spent the last year developing a game he calls "Vegetable Blow-up."
An app, or "application" for those of you who are unaware, is a small downloadable computer program used for educational, social or entertainment purposes and available for use on a mobile device.
There are currently 350,000 apps available for purchase at the Apple Store.
Including Logan's.
"Vegetable Blow-up" costs 99 cents.
It's a simple game wherein the player, using a finger, guides the path of a missile through a series of obstacles. Along the way, the player can earn points by hitting carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables - all on the way to the broccoli.
Logan isn't a fan of vegetables, he said last week.
Well, he does like onions on his cheeseburgers, but he especially does not like broccoli.
Logan earns 70 cents for every sale, which could mean that he might earn a nice return to spend on computer programs and equipment. His parents, however, have other ideas.
Mom and dad, both psychologists and incidentally not proficient in computer programming, insist that Logan bank 90 percent of his earnings.
"I'm just so unbelievably proud of him," said mom Jodi Howell. "It's really great to see him doing this - the self-instruction, the perseverance."
As a parent, she said, "you wonder, how much of this computer thing do you allow? It does seem educational. He's learning, he's studying. He gets his homework done. He does get exercise."
He has earned a brown belt in his mixed martial arts class. He plays basketball and tournament chess.
"If any of his friend's parents get stuck on the computer, and he's over at the house, they'll ask him to help," Jodi said.
When his computer lab teacher at Charles Wright Academy asked if he'd like to spend his recess developing his app, he said he'd rather not.
"I didn't have time at recess because I wanted to play with my friends," he said.
"Logan has always gravitated to computers," said Jodi. "Taking things apart, putting them back together - he has a mind for that."
At school, Logan's favorite subject is math.
"It's really easy for me to understand," he said.
He has successfully competed in the Math Olympiad.
The idea to write a game program came from his teacher, he said.
Along with composing in basic programming languages, Logan learned to write in the difficult "Objective C."
He received help from "this guy named Bucky who helps programmers. He has a website with all these great tutorials."
Logan wrote the code, tested it and finally decided it was ready.
Along the way, there was busy work.
He received an app I.D. and secured a certificate enabling him to publish. He needed to worry about copyright, and then there was the matter of applying to Apple, hoping they would add Vegetable Blow-up to their online store.
There were various fees.
"I saved up from my allowance," he said.
He sent the program to Apple and did what prospective authors do. He waited. He checked his status regularly. He waited some more. He waited maybe 10 days.
"I was a little worried," he said.
He was at computer camp several weeks ago when he received the news.
"I checked on the site," he said. "I was excited. I was expecting it to still be in review."
"He really has stuck with this," said Althea Cawley-Murphree, director of communications at Charles Wright. "Now he can call himself a professional programmer, and he's making money at it. We're all excited when somebody takes this as seriously as he did. I think Logan sets a great example for other students at Charles Wright and elsewhere."
Logan has already written an update, which is available as Vegetable Blow-up 1.2
He's thinking about a new game - currently classified at home as Top Secret - based not on vegetables but with elements from the animal kingdom.
And there's a lesson in all this, said Cawley-Murphree.
"There's no reason to wait to be successful until you're 18."
Story tags » SoftwareAppleTacoma

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