Spanish Fork teen develops follow-up app to 'Bubble Ball'

Published: Sunday, April 14 2013 11:41 p.m. MDT

This file photo shows 14-year-old Robert Nay, who invented the Bubble Ball app. Nay has teamed up with Thanksgiving Point to release a new app titled "Bubble Ball: Curiosity Edition."

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SPANISH FORK — Other than being a software app developer recognized throughout the U.S. tech community, Robert Nay is a typical 16-year-old.

But the folks at Thanksgiving Point are grateful Nay can push the boundaries of what a typical 16-year-old is capable of doing.

Nay and Thanksgiving Point have teamed up to release "Bubble Ball: Curiosity Edition," an iPhone app that requires users to apply concepts of gravity and motion to navigate obstacles and land the "bubble ball" in its final destination.

Thanksgiving Point hired Nay in December to code the game as part of its "R U Curious 2?" campaign, which aims to raise funds for the Museum of Natural Curiosity. Construction on the museum is set to begin in the spring.  

Nay, of Spanish Fork, said the two-month project required a heavy time investment.

"I spent several hours a day on it, after school and homework," the Mapleton High School sophomore said. "It definitely took up a lot of my free time, but it was worth it."

This isn't the first time Nay, who coded the app, has turned heads with such projects. When he was 14, he created the original "Bubble Ball" app, which for a while was the most popular download in Apple's App Store, bumping out the famous "Angry Birds" app for two weeks and eventually garnering 16 million downloads.

The game even landed Nay interviews with ABC's "Good Morning America" and NPR Radio. He was also featured in Forbes Magazine's prestigious 30 under 30 series in 2011.

"We could always tell he loved computers, (but) we had no idea how popular it would get. We didn't expect this," said Nay's mother, Kari Nay. "It's really just what he did for fun. To see what he likes turn into recognition and all these opportunities is really exciting."

The new game includes themes from the "R U Curious 2?" campaign and includes 30 additional levels.

Thanksgiving Point spokeswoman Britnee Johnston said she was impressed by Nay's professionalism and the quality of his work.

"We knew we wanted to build an app, but we hadn't really known where to go with it," Johnston said. "Robert was very professional and met all his deadlines."

Thanksgiving Point awarded Nay with its annual Curious Kid award in October. Two months later, Thanksgiving Point officials offered him the developing job.

Nay's programming ability was impressive, Johnston said, but his thirst for knowledge is really what caught Thanksgiving Point officials' attention.

"He's a great example of guests that we'd like to come through here," Johnston said. "He's innately curious."

E-mail: blockhart@deseretnews.com, Twitter: benlockhart89

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