Insider’s Scoop: Here’s What Was (Tim) Cooking at Apple’s WWDC 2017…

“Smile for the camera!”

Snap!

Another picture done. The smile on my face freezes with the rest of my body as I wonder how much longer I have to stand still while being squished by several people around me.

“Make a spot in the middle” I hear, confused as to why. However, I am not the only one. Commotion arises around me as everyone makes an open spot in front of me, incognizant of what is going on.

But then, the one and only Tim Cook walks out, and the world stands still as he takes up the open spot in front of me.The crowd suddenly goes ballistic.

Spot me? (picture credit: Apple’s WWDC app)

As soon as the photographers manage to get a couple of pictures with Tim Cook, the real battle begins. Between all of the belligerent pushing and shoving to get to Cook to take a selfie, I realize how lucky I am to be standing right behind him. After being a bit aggressive, I finally am able to get a selfie with Cook, which I instantly make my Facebook profile picture.

If I can get a picture with Tim Cook on the first day, I think, this week is going to be great!

And it definitely was quite a week. After taking this picture with Tim Cook and all the other scholars at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) on the first day during the scholarship orientation, the week only got better and better. As a recipient of the WWDC scholarship, I was one of about 350 scholars to receive a $1500 ticket to attend the conference, with free lodging and exclusive access to a scholarship lounge. To receive the scholarship to WWDC, I had to apply by creating a Swift Playground, which I developed by using the software XCode on my Mac and the Swift Playground App on the iPad.

One of my favorite parts of the week was definitely the keynote, when Apple revealed all of their new products for the year. On June 5th, the day after the scholarship orientation, as I sat in awe at the front of the keynote, Tim Cook and Craig Federighi, as well as many other Apple Engineers, unveiled numerous exciting products, including the new Apple HomePod, which is coming out later this year. My exhilaration grew as Apple kept announcing new products and features that several engineers have been working on. From drag and drop features on the iPad to ARKit and Metal 2 for developers to the all new iMac Pro, Apple amazed us all with its astounding accomplishments.

“Surprise!”

As Tuesday June 6th approached, my exhilaration only increased. That morning was very exciting as Apple’s PR actually called me the day before and asked me to be a part of an event that they couldn’t tell me about yet. I was very curious, but I obviously met with the nine other scholars who were also asked that morning in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. Similarly, no one else knew what was going on.

Apple’s Esther Hare met us at the entrance of the center and brought us up to the second or third floor of the center. We were led to a large black photo booth that had “RESERVED” written in big black letters on a sign posted to the door. Several photographers informed us that we were rehearsing for a photograph and arranged us around a set of stools with one large gap in the middle saved for a “guest.” We weren’t told who this “guest” was, but I had a feeling I knew.

The time finally came for us to line back up into the photo booth in the positions we were told to be in, except this time, this esteemed guest was going to be in the photo with us. Before we went into the photo booth, several security guards approached us and took all of our belongings, including our backpacks, phones, and even our WWDC entrance badges. At this point, I definitely knew who the “guest” was. Confident yet bereft of my phone to get an autograph, I walked into the photo booth to make eye contact with one of the most influential women in our country.

Michelle Obama!

The first thing I noticed was how tall Michelle Obama was, especially since she was wearing heels. She generously hugged each and every one of the scholars and I felt honored to hug such an amazing role model as she towered over me.

After taking numerous pictures, Michelle Obama then talked to us and asked us if school was over. Unfortunately, I still had four finals to take before I could officially be on summer vacation, so I told her that I still had school. She was shocked, and maybe even a bit impressed, that I missed an entire week of school to attend WWDC across the country when I still had finals to take. I will never forget when she pointed specifically at me and told me to tell my teachers to let me take a rest from finals when I come back — and that the former first lady said so.

I also had to opportunity to sit in the front row of her speech immediately after taking the picture with her in the halls of the convention center, where Michelle Obama gave a fantastic talk with Apple’s Lisa Jackson. At times, I felt she was directly waving and talking to me and inspiring me to be just like her — she was successful.

“Thanks For the Memories…and the Labs!”

Tuesday and Wednesday flew by quickly as I went lab after lab and attended different sessions from Apple’s engineers introducing many of Apple’s features in XCode. It was amazing to see how Augmented Reality and Machine Learning can be implemented easily in apps with just a few lines of code. As I went to different labs to ask questions about several APIs (Application Programming Interface) in Apple’s MapKit, all new CoreML, and CloudKit, among others, Apple’s engineers were more than happy to help me out and really tried to answer my questions very clearly. When I went to the CloudKit lab to ask a question about sending data across users in an iMessage app, the engineers at the lab were even able to get the head engineer behind the backend coding in Apple’s iMessage apps to help me out. These engineers tremendously helped me with creating new apps and I really learned a lot of new functions from Apple’s engineers.

Then Thursday rolled around: the day of the WWDC Bash. Fall Out Boy was rumored to be playing at the bash in the Discovery Meadow this year, and the food menu for the bash was endless! Many games were set up around the field, like glow in the dark cornhole — which was awesome — and the DJ started off the bash by playing a multitude of songs. And then it was time for Fall Out Boy, who I’ve grown up listening to. After Fall Out Boy played, my friends and I got some organic ice cream and danced as the DJ played many songs. It was definitely an unforgettable experience!

On Friday, the last official day of WWDC, the conference was initiated with the Women @ WWDC breakfast, which included a panel of four girls, including me! The theme of the panel was taking our experiences and using them to help our communities. I really enjoyed sharing my story of starting my nonprofit organization, ThinkSTEAM, after my brother told me that there were 33 boys and no girls in his C++ class. ThinkSTEAM is now 501(c)(3) approved and has held 20 technology workshops exclusively for girls in partnership with companies like Facebook, Google, and IBM and has reached out to hundreds of girls in 40 school districts and six states. I also really enjoyed learning the stories of the other three girls — Sofia, Beatriz, and Louisa — on the panel. Their stories were very inspiring and show how women can be just as successful in STEM as men are.

Women@WWDC Panel (picture credit: Apple’s WWDC app)

Unfortunately, Saturday eventually came and I had to say goodbye to WWDC and all of the friends I had made from around the world. I had such an amazing experience at WWDC — way more than what a 15 year old could ever ask for! Thank you so much Apple for giving me this opportunity and for encouraging young girls and high schoolers to become app developers and the STEM leaders of tomorrow!

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