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Sunday, July 14, 2024
Virgil teen turns heads at Apple with new bridge status app
Steven Shelestowsky, creator of the new Niagara Bridges iPhone app, stands at the Carleton bridge in St. Catharines. (SOMER SLOBODIAN)

Residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake know all too well the pains of trying to cross one of the Welland Canal bridges in the summer months. 

Their frustration inspired 18-year-old Virgil resident Steven Shelestowsky to create a phone app called Niagara Bridges to make the process a bit easier. 

The 99-cent app updates every 30 seconds and provides real-time information on the status of each lift bridge, including the three that can be used to go in and out of Niagara-on-the-Lake — the Lakeshore, Carlton and Homer bridges.

The app went live for purchase on the Apple Store in early June.

“I started building out concepts and stuff maybe like a year ago,” Shelestowsky said.

“I’ve been planning this whole thing for a while. I just hadn’t been old enough to publish it,” he added. The legal age to publish an iPhone app and have a developer account is 18. 

Shelestowsky created the app exclusively for iPhone users since one already exists for Android phones.

There used to be an app like this for iPhone users, he said, but it was discontinued.

He remembers the hassle his mom experienced every day when she would drive him to Eden High School.

“There’d be times where the bridge would be up, and my mom would be like, ‘It’d be really nice if there was still an app for that,'” Shelestowsky said.

Since many people are iPhone users – Apple is one of the most popular phone brands in Canada – and many people travel across the Welland Canal daily, he decided to be the one to create it.

It’s been getting some recognition from the people at Apple themselves.

During the tech giant’s recent developers conference in early June, he had the opportunity to participate in a session with Apple developer Philip Davis, who works on the Apple Maps team for the Apple Watch.

“It was kind of mind-blowing,” Shelestowsky said.

“He was like, ‘Yeah, I really like this type of app that just caters towards a niche group of people.’ And that was pretty cool to hear,” he added.

Shelestowsky built the app on software called Xcode, a popular program used to develop Apple apps. 

He said he developed an interest in coding at the age of 10 and knew he wanted to pursue it as a career.

His dad, Paul Shelestowsky, said his son gravitated toward computers as a kid and could even type out his last name by the time he was three. 

Knowing what you want to do with your life after high school, or even as an adult, is difficult for many people.

There was “never a doubt in his mind” about what he wanted to do after school, his dad said.

He just finished his first year at University of Guelph where he is pursuing a degree in computer engineering. 

“With this app, it doesn’t feel like work for him. It feels like something he really enjoys,” said his dad.

Shelestowsky turned 18 last year on Aug. 20, but he was busy preparing for university, so he chose to take some time to get used to university life before finishing the app this year and getting it published.

Shelestowsky said it was a pretty easy process and only took a few days for his app to become approved.

“It’s really cool to see my own app on the App Store,” he said. 

His dad knows a lot of people who have been using the product already, and said “It’s really just great to see something that he created being so well utilized.”

He said developers on the app store have the chance to apply to take part in these sessions and he was excited when he got picked. 

Next, he wants to work on creating an app that will help university and college students better manage their time.

“I found it especially tough to manage my timetable in university in the first year,” he said.

Niagara Bridges cost a one-time price of 99 cents to help offset some of Shelestowsky’s server costs.

He hopes to run an update once the new iOS system update is released around September.

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