When one thinks of Apple’s yearly Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC), images of 20-something app developers and startup founders packing the halls of the event venue comes to mind.
However, among them are some who don’t quite fit the typical app developer profile, but are still well-equipped with the technical knowledge, and even have multiple apps to their names.
The WWDC Scholarships
The week-long WWDC extravaganza is where Apple announces exciting new software (and sometimes hardware) updates for developers and consumers, along with classes and workshops for anyone attending to learn more about the Apple ecosystem.
As part of the conference is also the WWDC Scholarships, where talented students and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) organisation members are rewarded with an opportunity to attend the 5-day event with a free ticket and lodging.
Aspiring developers who have been selected are required to submit the Swift Playground they have created, as well as a write-up about their coding knowledge and enthusiasm for computer science.
With 38 countries and 14 STEM organisations represented this year, it marks a record number of recipients to have received the scholarship.
Meeting The WWDC Scholars
While we were at WWDC, we’ve had the opportunity to speak with some of them, and you’d be surprised at the depth, and age range of these talented developers.
Born in Singapore, Yuma Soerianto is just 10 years of age. Currently residing in Melbourne, Australia, he taught himself how to code at age 6 and dreams of “teaching the world how to code”.
To date, he has 5 apps published in the App Store, all of which were completed in the past year alone, with the latest being a game called “Let’s Stack!“.
He also has his own YouTube channel called “Anyone Can Code” that he created in August last year, where he posts easy-to-understand video tutorials on how to create iOS apps using Swift and SpriteKit.
Just 15 years old, Amanda Southworth started her coding career at the age of 11. The Los Angeles-based teen left her high school to become home schooled, allowing her to work as a full-time iOS developer and robotics software engineer.
This young girl boss currently has two apps in the app store — AnxietyHelper and Verena.
AnxietyHelper, as its name suggests, is for people suffering from anxiety disorders and it also provides users with information on mental health. Users from an anxiety attack can consult the app for steps to calm themselves down, and it even has safety measures built in if users fail to respond within a set time.
Verena is an app designed for members of the LGBTQ community. Built to ensure they feel safe during times of need or emergency situations, the app has a unique feature that disguises it for another app. Only after you enter your credentials and password will the actual user interface of Verena be revealed.
Phillip Zakharchenko is from Russia and is currently a student at the Zaytsevo Moscow Economic School. 16-years-old this year, this is the second year in a row that he is attending WWDC.
When he was 12, he taught himself how to code with the programming language Visual Basic but it was only with the release of Swift that his interest in developing apps was nurtured.
Within one week of learning Swift, he had already managed to create his first to-do list app, citing that the program is well-structured and thus reasonably easy to master.
As of now, he has developed apps on all of Apple’s platforms – iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.
Illinois-based app developer and founder of EcaKnowGames, Gaby Ecanow, was first exposed to coding when a friend convinced her to join their middle school’s Code Club.
She learned Java, Python and C# by the end of her sophomore year of high school through online classes and self-teaching methods.
She went on to intern at Northwestern University’s TIDAL lab that same year where she worked closely with the research team on a paper and project— and had the opportunity to present her findings at the international Human-Computer Interaction conference in Denver, Colorado.
She now works at TIDAL lab as a part-time, paid employee. Last summer, Gaby took an iOS bootcamp and Swift development course, where she received intensive immersion into Xcode and Swift.
There, she created the coding game Click! with a course mate, written in Swift, which went on to win first place in the national Mobile Markers 2017 High School Winter App Contest.
Kevin Tong from China started coding when Swift was first introduced, calling it a simple, yet powerful tool.
The app that he showcased at WWDC was built in Swift Playgrounds, and is something aimed at helping users improve their musical abilities through a game-like interface.
The inspiration for creating the app came from his self-professed inability to learn music – whether it was singing or musical instruments.
Through a colourful UI, his game is segmented to will help users memorise common musical notes and sounds, featuring hints and prompts to help them along the way.
Kevin hopes to develop more apps in the future, especially for kids.
Beatriz Magalhães hails from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. She is 21 this year, and is currently a digital media design student at Pontifical Catholic University.
Her journey in coding began just two years ago, when she joined Brazil’s Education Program for iOS development, and since then, she has fallen in love with app development.
She feels that developing apps gives her the opportunity to combine both her animation and design skills while working with the human side of technology.
At WWDC, Beatriz showcased her app Diapets, aimed at educating children with diabetes through a game which involves taking care of a digital pet that has diabetes.
She was mentioned alongside Yuma in Tim Cook’s WWDC Keynote.
Masako Wakamiya was also there amongst the young ones in the little developer meet and greet. Though she is not a scholarship recipient, at 82-years-old, she is this year’s oldest conference attendee, and that feat in itself is an inspiration.
Ever since retiring in 1997, she has been learning about computers, and even co-founded a senior PC club in 1999. Just last year, she picked up Swift and was well on her way to becoming an iOS developer, and released her very first iPhone app “Hinadan” in March earlier this year.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to speak with her and for good reason – every media around the world was eager to have a word with her, and even Tim Cook came by to have a chat.
Until Next Year, WWDC
WWDC this year definitely ended with on a high note, as Apple introduced a whole slew of new products along with the expected updates to its software.
Developers this year have been treated the opportunity to hear from not just Apple executives about the latest developments, but also a surprise session with Michelle Obama.
2017 has forever set the bar high up for any future WWDC, and while we eagerly wait for the next iPhone to be out later this year, developers are hoping that next year’s conference will be as explosive.