January 20, 2011 / 12:35 AM / 9 years ago

"Bubble Ball" iPhone app inventor is Utah eighth grader

SPANISH FORK, Utah (Reuters) - The world’s most frequently downloaded free iPhone application, an engrossing mini-video game called “Bubble Ball,” is the creation of a 14-year-old boy who spent weeks developing it at a public library in Utah.

Eighth-grader Robert Nay, who also happens to be a young musical prodigy — he plays piano, trumpet and mandolin — said he was inspired by his enthusiasm for electronic games in general and his interest in tinkering with computers.

“I just wanted to make an iPhone app. I thought it would be cool. And I wanted to see if I could do it,” Robert said in a recent interview with Reuters. “I played games that were similar to it. I just took what I liked from different games, and, like, add my own stuff.”

But Robert’s “Bubble Ball,” a puzzle and game of strategy that involves the principles of physics in moving a floating bubble from one point to another, is anything but a knock-off of other apps.

“He spent countless hours working on it, and the final product includes more than 4,000 lines of code. He sent it to the Apple app store on December 22. It appeared for download at the app store December 29,” said his mother, Kari Nay.

Robert first began working on his invention in November.

“Bubble Ball” was downloaded 1 million times in its first two weeks of release from Apple’s iTunes website and has since surpassed the 2-million mark, replacing “Angry Birds” as the site’s most popular free app.

Robert, who also enjoys pizza and books, became interested in computers at an early age and said that most of what he knows about them is self-taught. Not surprisingly, his favorite subject in school is math.

He launched his first website in the third grade, and has earned a reputation as a student techie who is routinely called upon to help teachers with computer problems.

But it was at the public library in his hometown of Spanish Fork, about an hour’s drive south of Salt Lake City, where Robert found the computer technology books and the space to work on his creation.

“It’s neat to know that he’s brought a little fun and happiness to 2 million people,” said Robert’s father, Don.

But Robert is developing a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, too. He already is working on a new game that may include an “in-app” purchase option for additional game levels for 99 cents.

Asked about his advice to other young people, he hardly looks up while tapping away on his laptop.

“Go for your dreams and do what you want to do,” he says.

Editing by Steve Gorman and Greg McCune

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