This is what it’s like to be a teen developer invited by Apple to attend its big tech conference

caption
Apple CEO Tim Cook poses with Michael Verges (left) and other programmers at WWDC 2016.
source
Michael Verges

One of the smartest things Apple is doing is encouraging teenagers who like to code to write iOS apps. This helps the company create a new generation of fans.

Even just a few years ago, programmers under age 18 were not welcomed by Apple with open arms. You had to be 18 to get an Apple Developer account and submit an app to the App Store or to attend its huge annual World Wide Developer’s Conference.

Today, teen developers can be as young as 13 to submit apps, according Apple’s terms of service.

And those who want to attend the WWDC apply for a scholarship that waives the conference fees for them.

They are the second stars of the show, with special access to Apple’s star executives.

Teen programmers Blake Bollinger and Michael Verges, who wrote an app together, were among Apple’s 350 scholarship winners to attend WWDC 2016, held last week in San Francisco. Most of the scholars were high school or college students.

Their app is called “Verse” and it will help singers train their voices. It was written for iOS 10 and hasn’t been published yet.

Here is their account of what their week at Apple’s WWDC was like.


Saturday, June 11: We arrived on Saturday night just in time to take some pictures through the windows of the Moscone Center.

source
Blake Bollinger

Sunday, June 12, was the day of the scholarship orientation. We signed in and got our badges. (Michael Verges, left, Blake Bollinger, right.)

source
Blake Bollinger

We used our badged to sign into an iPad to get access to the show. It also gave us access to parties and other special events.

source
Blake Bollinger

After signing in we had a chance to meet with some of the other scholars. We are from Louisiana and we met people from Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, and everywhere in between. During our group picture, Tim Cook came through the crowd and surprised all of us. We both got autographs and pictures with him. (Here’s Blake Bollinger with Tim Cook.)

source
Blake Bollinger

Here’s Michael Verges with Cook. Everyone was lining up to take a photo with him, or photo bombing pictures with him. Not just the scholarship attendees, but everywhere he went at WWDC.

source
Michael Verges

Apple surprised us and gave all of the scholars free Apple TV Development Kits, too. Tim Cook autographed our devices.

source
Blake Bollinger

On Monday, at 2 a.m. we camped out in the line for the opening keynote. We met so many nice people who camped out alongside us. We ended up being the very first people in line! After camping for 7 hours we were finally let into the auditorium.

source
Michael Verges

The line grew to over 5000 people. Because we were first, we got into some of the prime seats near the front of the stage. The keynote was amazing and bigger than anything we could have imagined.

source
Blake Bollinger

After the keynote, all of the scholars went up onstage for a picture. It was stunning to see how the stage looked from that point of view. After the picture, we went to the Download Lab where we installed the beta operating systems on our devices.

source
Blake Bollinger

We also attended the Apple Design Awards.

source
Apple design award winners 2016

Two student projects won Apple Design Awards. We met with the team that made one of the winning projects, Dividr, a game completely based on 3D Touch made by Josh Deichmann, Patrick Pistor, and Erik Lydick.

source
Apple

Linum was built by Joaquin Vila, another student Desgin winner. It’s a puzzle game that uses uses touch, as well as a bunch of other of Apple’s newest technologies ( UIView animations, CoreData, StoreKit, ReplayKit, and GameCenter).

source
Apple

The Scholars were invited to attend Apple’s big Bash party, too. Here’s the sign promoting the party.

source
Blake Bollinger

Tuesday-Friday were our days at the actual conference. We were able to go to labs, sessions, and talk with many app developers and Apple Engineers about how to improve our app. We received great suggestions on how we could improve.

source
Blake Bollinger

On Thursday, we met Craig Federighi, the senior vice-president of software engineering. We were able to get a picture and talk for a minute.

source
Blake Bollinger

On Friday, we met John Geleynse, who directs many of the user experience aspects of Apple’s software and hosts the Apple Design Awards. We were able to pitch our app idea to him and receive feedback about how we could improve. He is very friendly, and he likes to talk to scholars. He was available throughout the week to meet. He gave us many great suggestions.

source
Blake Bollinger

The Scholars were also invited to parties hosted by Microsoft, Uber and Lyft. RSVPs were required weeks in advance and we didn’t know about that so we didn’t attend any other parties. We hung out with out parents in the evenings instead. During the day, our parents went out site seeing in San Francisco while we attended our professional conference.

source
Michael Verges