5/Brain Games

Apple’s Stephen Wakulchik ’10 helps kids become coders

As a neuroscience major at Bucknell, Stephen Wakulchik ’10 could have followed a clear path to a career in medicine. But his interest in the science of learning led him instead to Silicon Valley, where he designs innovative educational programs for Apple.

For the last five years, Wakulchik has been an education engineer for Swift Playgrounds, an inventive app that teaches kids how to code. The program actively responds to users’ actions, offering personalized hints and suggestions to help novice coders understand key programming concepts. As kids develop their skills, Swift Playgrounds adapts to help them build what they want — from apps to games.

“These are the kinds of ideas you hear professional developers talking about, yet we’re making them available for kids to create right on their iPads,” says Wakulchik, who designs curricula for the program. “That’s something a lot of teaching-to-code programs have a hard time doing, which is what makes what I’m doing such cool work.”

Stephen Wakulchick '10

Before he was a developer, Wakulchik taught high school science in Oakland, Calif., where he used neuroscience to build an environment suited to his students’ learning styles. While working to raise student test scores he realized their access to portable devices could be an asset. That’s when he made the leap from teaching to technology development.

Wakulchik says his work at Apple combines the best elements of his neuroscience, teaching and development experiences to create powerful tools for young learners. — Brooke Thames