The Apple of Our Eye: Ryan O’Connor ’19 Wins Scholarship to WWDC17

Orientation to the WWDC17 for scholarship winners.

IBy Ryan O’Connor ’19

Ryan O’Connor ’19 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center for Apple’s WWDC17.

I am Ryan O’Connor, a sophomore and passionate app developer. I have been into programming and app design for about four years now and am also in the progress of developing an all-new app for Chaminade. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, an annual weeklong event to bring developers together from around the world to learn, share, and connect. This year, the conference was held in San Jose, California. I attended the conference as a winner of Apple’s Scholarship Program, and I’d like to share my experience throughout the week to give an insight on what it’s like to attend.

The Scholarship

Tickets for regular admission to attend the conference are not cheap, at $1,599, and you’ll only get a chance to buy one if you’re randomly selected among 5,000 other developers. However, Apple offers 350 students a scholarship to attend the conference for free. The submission requirements included the following: a Swift Playground project that demonstrated one’s creativity and coding skills, an essay describing the project, and a second essay explaining one plan’s to share his or her coding knowledge with others. Swift is Apple’s newest programming language for creating apps, and a Playground is a simple and interactive code project.

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For my scholarship submission, I created an interactive Swift Playgrounds Book for iPad which teaches about the four different seasons. In the first section, I introduced myself with an ocean scene. The second scene interactively changed throughout the seasons; the third section explained why the seasons change, and the fourth section displayed the earth revolving around the sun to give insight into how the science works. While the underlying concept of my project was relatively simple, it displayed my programming skills, creativity, and eye for detail. For that, Apple rewarded me with a ticket to the conference! Watch my submission here.

The Arrival

I was extremely excited boarding the six-and-a-half hour flight from New York to San Francisco International Airport. A valuable part of my journey was meeting many different people. Halfway through my flight, I noticed that the person sitting next to me was reading some information about the conference. He was another developer attending the conference, as he was the co-founder of the popular mail app AirMail. Based out of Italy, he discussed many challenges he has faced while developing apps. He said it is quite difficult to manage all of the different aspects of being an individual developer – including planning, marketing, implementing new features, providing customer support, and tracking down issues. He told me that it pays off to be able to create something from the ground up.

“It’s really amazing to see nothing, over time, turn into something amazing, that you can hold in your hand,” he told me, stressing how much opportunity there is in the field. One could work at a large company such as Apple or Google and great experience from professionals in the field, or he or she could choose to work at a startup, which provides great experience across multiple positions. Additionally, within the platform, the options are endless, as apps can range anywhere from an audio or video player to a productivity app like AirMail.

Sunday, June 4

On this day, scholarship winners attended an exclusive orientation, which very interesting because it gave some insights into Apple’s practices and values, as well as some handy information to get the most out of the week ahead. As a first-time attendee, this was especially helpful to me.

The presenters first used Apple Pencil as an example of how all of the components of a product must fit together seamlessly. First, they explained the mastery of the hardware that made up the device, and then various software challenges involved in connecting the pencil to the iPad. One challenge that they faced was reaching the smallest possible response time while not overloading the iPad and draining battery. The humorous solution to this was to disguise the integration across multiple different use cases – the same technology for the Apple Pencil was hidden inside code for the iPad Air 2’s new touch system and the iPhone 6s’s 3D Touch system to respond to force! I found it quite amazing that they were able to “reuse” frameworks (common codes that provide a specific functionality) so that it was very easy for developers to adopt features such as Apple Pencil into their apps.

The overall topic of this section of the presentation was to show the art of making something that involves an enormous amount of work to design and engineer, yet is not apparent to the user how hard it was due to the simplicity and perfection of the final product.

Apple then reminded us that the most important part of the whole week was to network. While the hundreds of sessions could be watched online after the conference, the priceless opportunity to talk to Apple engineers and other developers was something that should not be missed.

The orientation wrapped up with a group photo on stage and a surprise visit from Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook. And not to be forgotten — this year’s gift to developers was a brand new Apple TV 4!

Following orientation, I visited Apple Park, the company’s new $5 billion campus which is under construction. This was stunning to see in real life. And of course, being so close by, I had to check out the current campus at Infinite Loop, as well as Stanford University’s campus.