MVP Featured App: Spell and Speak













Xbox MVP Dave Voyles has released a Windows Phone 8 app entitled Spell and Speak, which teaches literacy to children.

He found inspiration for this app through his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son, wanting to create something for his unique perspective that was both educational and simple enough for him to use.  He also found it a valuable experience in learning Windows Phone development, which led to his creation of tutorials along the way, along with providing open source code for others to learn from.

He describes the app, “Children begin by selecting one of 26 objects on screen, where each object corresponds to one letter of the alphabet. If the user selects an image of an elephant, the next screen advances, with the picture of the elephant, along with a brief description, and then prompts the user to write the name of the object they see on screen.

If the user's text matches that of the object on screen, they're greeted with confetti falling from the top of the screen and the cheering of children in the background.”

While fairly new to the MVP community, Dave was inspired to create his app by another MVP:

“I watched Windows Phone MVP Nick Landry give his talk "What's new in Windows phone 8 for developers" at an NYC movie .NET developers meet up, and it sparked my interest. I had just finished writing a book, UnrealScript Game Programming, which used a completely different programming language, and wanted to get back into creating something. Rather than focus on games, which was my previous forte, I wanted to craft an app.

In addition, I had just interviewed with Microsoft to become a Tech Evangelist, but they later followed up and said they wanted me to have more experience, and with Windows and Windows Phone 8 in particular. This was the perfect opportunity to improve those skills while working on something new.

The app proved beneficial to my career in a number of ways:

I was very familiar with both the Speech API for Win Phone 8, and now use an advanced version of that for my current job. Additionally, much of the API for Win Phone 8 is similar to Windows 8, therefore it made transitioning to Windows 8 development not too difficult.

These skills are largely what led to my next role, as I was hired by Comcast soon after releasing this app, with the role of building apps for various Microsoft technologies. Spell and Speak allowed me to prove that I could create more than just games, in addition to wanting to work with the latest mobile technology.”


Dave Voyles, Xbox MVP, is the coordinator for Xbox LIVE's Indie Games Uprisings. He also writes for Armless Octopus, where he works as a Managing Editor, covering Xbox LIVE indie games and the indie gaming scene.  He has released one Xbox LIVE game of his own using XNA (Piz-ong), as well as projects using Unity and the Unreal Engine. He’s also proficient with HTML5 and JavaScript, and has released Super Rawr-Type, a side scrolling space shooter for the browser as well as Windows 8.  He works full time as a software engineer on the Xbox team at Comcast in Philadelphia. His first book is out now: "The Advanced UnrealScript Programming Cookbook" by Pakt Publishing,