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Junior receives national, local recognition for coding

Junior+Jimmy+McDermott+has+received+both+local+and+national+recognition+for+his+coding+talent+and+his+school+spirit+app%2C+The+Underground.+%28photo+illustration+by+Krzys+Chwala%29
Junior Jimmy McDermott has received both local and national recognition for his coding talent and his school spirit app, The Underground. (photo illustration by Krzys Chwala)

By Krzys Chwala, Editor-in-Chief

Junior Jimmy McDermott has received both local and national recognition for his coding talent and his school spirit app, The Underground. (photo illustration by Krzys Chwala)
Junior Jimmy McDermott has received both local and national recognition for his coding talent and his school spirit app, The Underground. (photo illustration by Krzys Chwala)

The Internet Education Foundation released its list of Congressional App Winners, or so junior Jimmy McDermott had thought.
As he scrolled through the list, his name was not to be found, so he carried on with his day. Later that afternoon, however, his dad sent him the link for the list of winners.
“No, I’m not on there,” McDermott thought to himself. “I already checked this.”
But out of curiosity, he decided to check the link once last time, and to his surprise, his name made the list, with a nomination from U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky.
This year, McDermott has also won first place for the Mobile Maker’s first annual High School Winter App Contest and was named a top 50 innovator in Chicago, both for his Underground app.
According to computer science teacher Paul Hennig, McDermott immediately began to shine in his class last year.
“Something just really got him going, and he took off,” Hennig said.
By October, he was already creating a basketball scoreboard application that sent and parsed data, which Hennig said is no amateur feat.
In the class, Hennig described McDermott as almost being like a second teacher.
“If I’m working with somebody, [another student] can go ask him, and he’ll stop what he’s doing and take time to explain it so they not only get the solution but also understand it,” Hennig said.
However, despite his seemingly natural-born talent, McDermott faced obstacles while coding. In class, he recalls multiple instances of not knowing how to go about solving a problem one day, and then having a moment of enlightenment the next while taking a shower or in gym class.
This sentiment held true this past summer when he was developing the Underground app. He would spend some 40-hour weeks working on it and then would sometimes take a break.
 
Check out the backstory of the Underground App here:

 
Because he wanted the app to be in the App Store by the time school started, he needed to send the app in for review by early-August. As the deadline approached, he had more of those 40-hour weeks.
Now he is facing another obstacle with his Underground app because Parse, the server he currently uses, is shutting down.
Looking back at the app this year, McDermott would have designed the application differently.
“One of my mentors from the summer, [App Developer Ellen Shapiro,] told me ‘The worst programmer you’ll meet is yourself six months ago,’” McDermott said. “There are so many things I would change about [the app], but it was a crazy design process that started with a weird idea.”
As a result, he is currently working on a refined version of the app that will be available for other schools as well. He currently has 11 schools interested in the product, including Glenbrook South and Downers Grove North. He has been in contact with their respective activity directors, who originally reached out to him.
“It’s such a cool feeling,” McDermott said. “If a school signs up, [I’m] immediately impacting 2,000 or maybe even more students.”
He describes it as a feeling of gratification because his six months of work are not only being appreciated, but also actively sought out.
As McDermott continues his interests in computer science, he plans to pursue business management in information technologies with a minor in computer science. He is interested in potentially starting his own business, but regardless, he is “definitely staying in this corner of the world.”
“One day, I’ll be able to say, ‘I taught Jimmy McDermott,’” Hennig said.

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