While most students spend Christmas break catching up on sleep and recovering from a hectic fall semester, Michael Calmette taught himself how to code and created an app.
Calmette is a senior at Gonzaga studying physics with a minor in computer science. His app, Helicopter Ride, was published to the App Store on Jan. 6.
The objective of the game is to steer a helicopter and avoid moving barriers for as long as possible. Players hold down the left or right side of the screen to navigate the helicopter up and down.
The app started as a computer software program that Calmette created for an Algorithmic Art class. Toward the end of the semester, he was inspired to turn the game into an app, especially with some extra time over break.
“I thought it would be fun to make as an app,” Calmette said. “It would also be a good experience to learn a new language and a new development environment during my free time over break, and I had a lot of fun with it.”
Working for four to seven hours a day over the course of two weeks, Calmette taught himself how to build an app and get approved for the Developer’s Program to publish his game to the App Store. This process included learning XCode for iOS and using the XCode game kit.
“Learning it was kind of tough because there aren’t any books or real resources out there,” Calmette said. “So, I had to learn by looking it up online and finding YouTube videos for very specific things. I would just teach myself one thing and then apply it to what I was trying to build for the game.”
Calmette has received significant support from friends and family, including his friend from high school, Eli Eigenbrodt.
Eigenbrodt, a fellow senior at GU, said Helicopter Ride is the only game he has downloaded on his phone.
“I’ve known Michael more socially than academically over the past eight years, and it was awesome to see him take that step forward,” Eigenbrodt said. “It kind of showed a lot of his initiative that I never really knew was a part of him.”
After publishing Helicopter Ride to the App Store, Calmette told his close friends and family, and posted a link on his Instagram story and LinkedIn. News of his game spread rapidly, earning Helicopter Ride a five-star rating, raving reviews and over 200 downloads.
“I downloaded it as soon as I saw he put it on his Instagram story, and I’ve seen a bunch of my friends playing it too,” Eigenbrodt said. “It’s addicting and pretty fun. I’ve helped him a lot with suggesting things to update and ways to make it better. He’s been very receptive and welcoming to all my comments.”
A few weeks ago, Helicopter Ride was updated so players can unlock new helicopter colors and earn a second life. As Calmette continues to make improvements, he is thinking about new ideas for another app. He said he needs to have a really good idea before he begins the strenuous process again.
“I think that this spurred something in him that he enjoys doing and I don’t know if he can make a career out of it or not, but I could definitely see that route happening,” Eigenbrodt said.
The success of Helicopter Ride has proven anything is possible with persistence and the help of the internet.
“There’s so much information online it doesn’t even matter if it has anything to do with coding,” Calmette said. “You can learn just by researching things and watching YouTube videos. I thought it was really interesting throughout this whole process that I was able to learn so much just by searching the internet. So, I think that it’s really helpful to know if I really want to learn something else.”