Proving that creating an iPhone application is not just for the seasoned tech whiz or entrepreneur looking to make millions, 11-year-old Cameron Cohen recently debuted iSketch — a drawing application featuring multiple brush sizes and colors — and plans on donating the proceeds to the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopedic Hospital.
Cameron, who lives in Brentwood, was treated at the hospital for a benign tumor in his leg. Although only in the hospital for about 10 days, Cameron missed a few months of school due to associated illness and spent nine months recovering from his surgeries.
“When I was injured I didn’t really have anything to do and I was bored,” Cameron said. “I had always been interested in programming and computers, and I had an iPod touch, so I just decide to Google ‘how do I create an iPhone application.’”
Through watching Stanford University lessons on iTunes, online tutorials, reading manuals and attending computer summer camps, Cameron taught himself the language and skills of programming. Learning programming proved challenging, Cameron said, but he stuck with it.
Cameron said he decided on iSketch after experiencing disappointment with other drawing applications he had downloaded to his iPod touch. Even more frustrating, Cameron said, was the $3-$5 price tag on the drawing applications. His iSketch drawing creation, which allows users to save and send their masterpieces via e-mail, sells for 99 cents.
While waiting for Apple’s approval after submitting his application in November, Cameron reflected on his time spent in the pediatrics unit at the Santa Monica-UCLA hospital. He realized how fortunate he was to have had his iPod and computer to keep him occupied during his time there.
“I wanted other kids to be able to have fun and have things to make them feel better when they were in the hospital,” Cameron said. “So, I decided I wanted to donate my money to helping buy them more supplies.”
Cameron will donate a substantial portion of the profits from the iSketch application, which came out in early December.
While the hospital does have entertainment materials to keep patients amused, a lot of the equipment is outdated, said Laila Ramji, child life specialist at the hospital. Cameron’s donation will help fulfill both his and the hospital’s goal of acquiring additional age-appropriate and current DVDs and music for teenagers and pre-teens, as well as electronic equipment like portable DVD players. Ramji said it is important for pediatric patients to have access to entertainment, and the new equipment will help them pass the time.
“Often [patients] can’t get out of bed or aren’t feeling well but need something, one, to distract them and, two, to perk them up a little bit,” Ramji said.
Even without the new supplies arriving yet, Cameron’s plan to donate his proceeds has already made a big impact on hospital staff. Ramji said it is often hard to tell exactly what children take away from their experience at the hospital. But in Cameron’s case, he made it apparent that the doctors and nurses who cared for him left a positive impression and made him want to give back.
“They’re so wonderful,” Lisa Cohen, Cameron’s mother, said of the hospital staff. “We’re very happy to do what we can to help them.”
Cameron recently released an updated version of iSketch adding three brushes, improving the color palette and inserting a text tool that allows users to pick the text size. There is also a FAQ section provided to guide unfamiliar users through the application. In upcoming versions, Cameron plans to fix any bugs and create a tool allowing users to choose text font, as well.
Although he is still thinking of new ideas, Cameron said he would like to create more applications in the future and be able to donate even more money. For now, however, he is focusing on continuing to improve the iSketch.
“I’m very proud of him that he made lemonade out of lemons,” Lisa Cohen said. “He’s a positive kid and we’re very pleased with what he’s done.”