Grandson garners featured article at Cult of Mac

A proud grandmother’s indulgence: Article which appeared online at Cult of Mac

Teen dev’s ambitious app isn’t your typical photo editor

By • 11:01 am, March 11, 2016


Ryan Stephen makes his WWDC debut. Photo: Ryan Stephen

If you’ve grown bored of Instagram’s filters, there’s a new option for giving your iPhone photos a little touch of magic.

New image-editing app Glaze is a one-stop-shop for photo tweakers that lets you jazz up still images, videos and — for iPhone 6s users — Live Photos, too.“When I was looking around for an app to create, I couldn’t find a single image app which was comprehensive across all content types,” says Glaze creator Ryan Stephen. “This was my response.”Perhaps most impressive of all? Stephen is a 16-year-old from Portland, Oregon, whose self-taught coding skills landed him a place at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference — on Apple’s dime.

A great new photo-editing app for iOS.
A great new photo-editing app for iOS.
Photo: Ryan Stephen

“There wasn’t a tool where people could sit down and edit whatever they wanted — whether that was a photo, a Live Photo, or a video — from inside one app,” Stephen says. “A lot of apps also required users to create an account to use them. If you just want to take advantage of one cool filter, you don’t necessarily want to go through the effort of signing up to a service you may not use again.”

Yes, apps really do start out as sketches on the back of an envelope.
Yes, apps really do start out as sketches on the back of an envelope.
Photo: Ryan Stephen

Glaze lets users apply a range of filters to their pictures, carry out Snapchat-style drawing on top of a photo or video, or add text bubbles and emojis — before sharing the result online, of course. With no sign-up required.

Stephen was inspired to launch the app after being one of 350 student developers invited to attend last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference as part of Apple’s “Scholarship” scheme. As Apple describes the opportunity: “WWDC Scholarships reward talented students and developers with the opportunity to attend [that] year’s conference.”

To be eligible, would-be devs have to be 13 years or older, and a full or part-time student. Stephen was a 15 when he applied to Apple, submitting a sample app to show off his coding ability. Within a month, he’d heard back from the company, which offered him a free one-week V.I.P. ticket to WWDC.

Hopping on a plane, he got to enjoy being part of the buzzy developer scene which descends on Cupertino for Apple’s annual developer conference — complete with the enviable opportunity to have his work critiqued by a full-time Apple designer.

Craig Federighi dropped in to offer some words of wisdom.
Craig Federighi dropped in to offer some words of wisdom.
Photo: Ryan Stephen

“It was just an amazing experience,” Stephen says. “At the time, I was working on a very basic photo editing app, one that was vastly simplified compared to Glaze. [Apple’s designer] talked with me about what I was doing, and pointed out some areas that I could improve on. That was when the idea of blending text and photos came from. Before that, I had been figuring everything out myself.”

Now that Glaze is finished, Ryan Stephen plans to keep developing it, adding more features where he can. But he learned a valuable lesson from Apple.

“One of the big things Apple’s designer taught me was about the importance of adding features to add usefulness, not just to add them for the sake of it. When you’re a young developer, that’s an incredibly useful pointer to be told. It’s something I’ve really tried to take on board.”

You can download Glaze from the App Store for $0.99 here.

Who knows? Perhaps in ten years you’ll be able to say you supported Ryan Stephen before it was cool.

P.S. FROM GRANDMA KAREN: I’ve supported Ryan since the day he was born along with the rest of his loving family. He’s come a long way since that first week of life he spent in the NICU at UC Davis. Who knew what lay ahead for him.

WWDC…a grandson’s dream

IMG_0019I’ve been enjoying watching the excitement and inspiration experienced by my fifteen-year-old grandson, Ryan, as he attends Apple’s extravaganza WWDC conference in San Francisco this week as one of 350 scholarship winners for students of all ages. The photos from inside the conference are his since the parents who accompanied those under 18 were relegated to the parents’ lounge. Congratulations, Ryan. Enjoy!

IMG_0038 IMG_0021 IMG_0026 IMG_0018 IMG_0016



We also took a mini-trip over to Coit Tower–a must for my volunteer firefighter son, even though, contrary to popular belief,  it was not designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle. The murals inside the tower’s base were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor and depict life in California during the Depression. He especially enjoyed the depiction of a MVA with all units responding circa the 1930s.IMG_0047

Grandson 15 wins coveted WWDC scholarship

WWDCYes…Grandma Karen screeched with delight when she heard the news. Grandson Ryan, age 15 and a freshman at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, had been chosen along with 349 other students of all ages (thirteen and older) around the world to receive a scholarship to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference to be held in San Francisco June 8 – 12.

His winning entry involved making an app about his three currently available apps:

step it StepIt, an innovative way to say anything in 3 simple steps and share it with your friends.

“…A really beautiful way to share messages with friends and family…” -AppPicker
“Great for quick notes…beautiful design.” -Appgevity

Space Bandit, a delightful game for children of any age. Follow Ripley the raccoon on an amazingly-fun journey across time and space! Choose your rocket-ship and get ready to blast off into space. With 20 levels and counting, this pizza-filled adventure is a blast.

BuzzIt to build crazy-fast reminders on your Apple Watch. BuzzIt taps your wrist, allowing for fast reminders, even on the go.

P1000092But Ryan’s entry into the world of computers, programming, and app development started much earlier. For Christmas of 2008, when he was eight years old, I gave him Lego’s programmable robot Mindstorms.

P1000099Within a few hours, on his own up in his room, he had assembled and programmed his new creation and then made a video of it.


But that wasn’t the end of it. What better to do with a robot than to get it to do your chores. In the ensuing years he taught it to fold laundry…

…and even type his homework. 

149Lest you think he is only one of those young genius computer nerds, his stellar grades in all subjects, his knack for writing (coming from an early love of reading), his participation in cross country and track, and even his love for his Faith class belie that. I’d like to think I started him on his way, but it is his entire family (younger brother, Sam, excelling on his own and about to achieve his Red Belt in martial arts, Dad at Intel and a volunteer firefighter, Mom a science teacher, his other grandparents, and the rest of his extended family) that have been the village to nurture this young man from his precarious entry into this world in a NICU for a week until today and into what will be a bright future.


Kudos to my 14-year-old computer whiz grandson

 Ryan and computer

I am so incredibly proud of my eldest grandson, Ryan. The story of his accomplishments as a self-taught computer whiz has just appeared on the front page of the Catholic Sentinel (in Portland). His Space Bandit app for Apple is entirely his own creation from the art work to the music to the programming and is selling all over the world. I have enjoyed helping him debug the program on visits in the past. He will graduate in a month from the 8th grade and his proud Grandma Karen will be right there. He is also an avid reader. Those of you who are writing YA fiction are writing for the young people of his generation and need to keep on your toes to keep up with their young inventive minds.