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Burnaby high school student's 'Mentality' app wins top honours at Apple contest

The winner of Apple 2023 WWDC Swift Student Challenge has also won a one-year membership to the Apple Developer Program.
Omar Abu Sharar, 16, from Burnaby South Secondary, emerged as one of the winners at 2023 Apple Swift Student Challenge. Photo Ziad Abu Sharar

Before entering the Apple Swift Student Challenge 2023, Burnaby high school student Omar Abu Sharar wasn't feeling very well.

"My mindset wasn’t the greatest," he said. "I wanted to get out of that state but didn’t really know how to. I felt stuck… so I created Mentality..

Sharar, a 16-year-old Grade 10 student at Burnaby South Secondary school, developed the Mentality app as part of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference’s (WWDC) Swift Student Challenge.

The book-like app is designed to help users understand mental health — with sections on hazards, illness and how to keep a healthy mind, and a follow-up quiz at the end.

For his app, Sharar earned a place among 375 Swift Student Challenge winners around the world and gained an opportunity to present his app to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Sharar’s passion for computer science laid the foundation for his success — starting with opening a programming club at school so he could share his knowledge with fellow classmates.

Sharar said after a couple years of dabbling with different concepts, a coding course that he enrolled in reignited his passion for programming, prompting him to enter the 2023 Swift Student Challenge for real.

With the goal of improving his own mindset, Sharar set out on the journey of developing Mentality. He said he got his sister to test the app during development.

“I was glad to find out that she found it pretty cool and learned lots about mental health,” he said.

For Sharar, presenting his app to Apple CEO Tim Cook was “a dream come true.”

“It’s an experience I will never forget,” he said.

He plans to expand the app and release in onto the App Store in the short term — “This means moving away from the book-like structure and optimizing the interface for iPhone and iPad, allowing parts of the app to be accessed quickly, adding more features to aid mental health and ensuring it’s a reliable source for all this information," he said.

In addition to this project, Sharar is also working to develop an innovative app that transforms the way students interact with technology while studying. The goal, he said, is to release the projects in Fall 2023.