Stevenson juniors Christina Roki, Franc Mehmeti and Katrina Vuktilaj check out the app.

Stevenson juniors Christina Roki, Franc Mehmeti and Katrina Vuktilaj check out the app.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Stevenson student develops passion for programming

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 6, 2018

 Stevenson High School junior Christina Roki shows the SHS Rewards app that she developed.

Stevenson High School junior Christina Roki shows the SHS Rewards app that she developed.

Photo by Deb Jacques

It wasn’t too long ago that Stevenson High School junior Christina Roki had never written a single line of code on a computer. 

But when advisers suggested that programming a location-tracking app would be too tough as a first project, she was motivated to prove her capabilities.

“I didn’t want to take no for an answer, so I went home and taught myself,” she said.

Roki, 17, from Sterling Heights, launched her first published software, the SHS Rewards app, in January on the Apple App Store for students to download.

According to Roki, the SHS Rewards app sets certain time periods for students to be at school. It also checks the user’s location, and if the student is in the radius of the school building, the user will earn points that can be redeemed for rewards or discounts on food or clothing from the school store.

Roki added that she plans to work with teachers to eventually provide classroom-based rewards, such as extra credit, for the points.

She explained that schools penalize students who are tardy or who have unexcused absences, so she sought to create an incentive for students who uphold their attendance responsibilities.

“Rather than penalizing the students that are not doing what they are supposed to be doing, my application rewards those that are, so the students that are not doing what they are supposed to be doing have an incentive to do the right thing,” she said in an email.

Despite hearing concerns that developing SHS Rewards would be daunting for a beginner, she took advantage of online resources such as YouTube videos and the Codecademy website to learn as much as possible about programming.

She said she originally programmed the app in May to run on the Apple platform.

“I finished it within a month or two,” she said. “I kept testing it.”

In September, she cross-platformed the app at a University of Michigan hackathon event called MHacks, rewriting the code using the Java programming language, thus allowing it to be used on Android devices.

“I’m waiting for it to get reviewed for Google Play,” she said, referring to the online marketplace for Android apps.

The thrill of completing a software project further interested Roki in exploring computer science, data science and technology for a future career. She also joined her school’s robotics team.

Roki said she plans to join the Stevenson Girls Who Code club and to spend spring break creating a local four-day engineering camp called Project 101 that is meant for middle school girls in Utica Community Schools. She said the camp will explore engineering topics, and it will have participants use teamwork to build a go-kart and test it out.

Roki already has experience mentoring other students on navigating the tech world. She helped teach the Utica Community Schools district’s Hello World computer camp last June for middle school girls who are curious about coding.

During that camp, Roki showed students several technology hubs in Michigan, including U-M in Ann Arbor, as well as offices for Microsoft, Google and General Motors.

Roki said she went to Stanford University last August to work on a solar car with a team that included Stevenson graduate Christina Li, who founded UCSs’ Hello World program.

Stevenson math teacher Michael Carpenter said Roki was a student in his accelerated pre-calculus course last year, and he noticed that she was doing some good work. As a result, he gave her some contacts for former students who are now in academia.

“She took it upon herself to contact some of these students through some channels because she’s just that motivated,” he said. “Through that, it kind of generated more interest in programming.

“I was giving her some authors to read, some self-help books on how to stay engaged as a high school student and better yourself.”

Roki’s advice to other aspiring students who are curious about tinkering with tech is to find passion and purpose in it.

“I would definitely try to see what their creative field is, what do you most enjoy doing and how can we apply computer science to it,” she said. 

“If they have something they want to have an impact on … they can understand how computer science is so helpful, and not necessarily do programming to program.”

Find out more about Stevenson High School by visiting stevenson.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1900. Find out more about the Apple App Store by visiting www.apple.com/ios/app-store.