How I got my 2017 WWDC Scholarship? Shunzhe Ma

Getting WWDC Scholarship is not easy. But when you try hard with your passion, you’ll succeed! For me, what helps me the most for getting a scholarship, it’s not what I simply made within a month. It’s what I did within a year. And it’s my passion. Scholarship is not only a free ticket, it’s also a great inspiration for all the young developers to go on , to keep making their crazy ideas true, and to change the whole world. — WWDC 2017 Scholarship Winner, High School Student, Shunzhe Ma

Last year’s rejection

It has been almost a year since my previous WWDC Scholarship rejection. I still remember how exciting I was last year when waiting for the final announcements: I clicked the refresh icon of the event page and the mail app for over thousands of times. I got more and more nervous since people said scholars should already have received a ticket in the event tab. And then I received an Email called “Your WWDC Scholarship Status,” and I knew I didn’t succeed. One week after, I still felt a little bit disappointed, and I couldn’t believe that the app I worked for several days just got rejected. I was starting to think what I did wrong, or what I should improve. Maybe I didn’t use Apple’s new technology? Maybe I am not posting my app to the App Store so more people could use? Maybe I am not spreading my passion for programming to others? I start to think.

IT Club with local Apple Store

New semester was coming, and I came up with some bright new ideas. I am starting to think that I not only needs to just program by myself, but I also need to spread my passion and skills around. That was the time that I decided to cooperate with the local Apple Store and create a club that could bring all the students interested in programming together. With the help of the Apple Store and the managers at my school, I have created the first IT Club in our school’s international department. It’s a nice while challenging try since programming is hard for most high school students. And it’s finally the day of the Club Fair, which means all the classmates would choose the clubs they would like to join. I was perturbed since I have no idea how technology would interest most of the classmates. But opposite from my thought, a lot of students are interested in my club, and half of the students in senior 1 joined my club. They were so excited to know that there’s an organization in school that could bring the tech geeks, and technology lovers together. My club experience made me realize that to be a good leader, the role for me is to bring different people with the same interests together and to make something great together. My club members and I learn coding skills together, and we tried several playgrounds at first. We also programmed some games like 2048, Flappy Bird using Swift. It’s just so fun to be together with other “young developers” at my school. Taking the advantages of the local Apple Store, I also organized several Field Trips for my club members to learn more. The club helps me to understand that the real joy of programming is not just to make things by yourself; instead, it’s to share your knowledge with others and get inspired.

Distribute Apps to the World

I am also thinking to distribute my apps so that people all around the world could use my apps. It’s never enough just to upload codes of what you made to Github. The thing is you need to make people be able to USE the things you’ve done, or why you programmed it? I have long been thinking to program an app, especially for technology lovers to browse news and read tips on using their devices. And I not only programmed this app, but I also brought this app to the App Store. This app is called Tech Geek and has been recommended by U.S App Store under the News section called “Apps We Love.” Making this app helps me to know how to do planning, designing, and even marketing by myself. It’s not only about programming, but also it’s about how to advertise and how to make people use my app. And Apple’s recommendation of my app makes me feel more confident and inspires me to learn more and more, so that I could bring all the people better and better apps and games.

O.M.G New requirements for this year

And then. It’s finally the day that the scholarship requirements are released. I remember that I was in the car to school while I read that Email. I got pretty shocked since it was not asking for apps; instead, Apple asks us for a playground that has creative ideas in it. My brain started to recall what I knew about the word “playground”: “A place that people can play?” “Oh, I know! It’s the app on the iPad” “What’s good about a playground? COME ON! It’s only for kids to play with codes, isn’t it?” “Oh no, I should think of an idea within a few days!”…… Ideas flew into my mind, but I didn’t know what I should do next.

Getting the idea

After hours of brainstorming with myself, I started to refine what a playground really could do: “Maybe it’s like a keynote with interactivity?” “Maybe it’s like users can input some value and change codes of it so it could run differently” I started to explore what’s different of a playground from an app or game. And I finally got the idea that “Playground is like an interactive keynote, which users could click the objects on the scene and interact with them.” I started to have the idea to teach some kids about Our Universe through a playground. And that project finally brings me the scholarship for this year.

Learning about Playground Grammar

It’s not easy to get started since there are only limited sources for making a playground. At first, I didn’t even know how to add a subview to the scene. Exploring around, I started by checking Apple’s example playgrounds. I began to view the codes of them and started to learn the basic grammar of the Swift playground. I learned how to add a view, and I learned how to add an action. I gradually found that programming on an iPad is the coolest thing ever! You know, people could just program wherever and whenever they want. And most importantly, right on their iPad! (Although it’s convenient to program on an iPad, I still programmed on Xcode because I am more familiar with programming on my MacBook.) I started to create an empty project and place the elements.

Get Planned

The first difference I noticed about playgrounds is that it’s more like a book (that’s why I said it’s like an interactive keynote before) which has different pages. So the first step is to think how many pages I will need and what should I place on different pages. I decided to put three chapters in Our Universe playground: The introduction chapter which is to make users engaged in playing my playground; the chapter that introduces different planets; and the final games which users could have fun.

Put elements

I started to simple search on my iPad of different pages, and I started to put different items on my playground pages. At first, I didn’t know that I could use a storyboard inside a playground, so it took a lot of my time to calculate the (x,y) position for each element. I put different elements like text view, buttons, titles, and pictures there. And the remaining steps are simple, like adding actions to a button item.

Scene Kit

It would be boring if there are only pictures of each planet, and it will just like a typical textbook if it’s without something important, something that could capture users’ eyes. That’s why I decide to put 3D models of different planets. The figures in a book cannot rotate, and readers cannot zoom in to see details. But what I am making is a playground! So why not add some 3D animating objects! Holding this excellent idea, I started to use Apple’s Scene Kit, and I put some 3D animating objects.


The day of application is getting closer and closer, but I am discovering more and more improvements I could make to my playground, although I knew it could never be perfect. I made some final touch to my playground, and submitted it along with the two other essays when the submission just starts! I have a lot of things to write about in my essay because I have my IT Club, and also the apps. So I wrote something about these.

Then, it’s the two-week waiting time!!! It’s the longest yet shortest two weeks for me. Why it’s long? Because I was waiting for my results all the day, refreshing forums (you would probably do the same), and checking up the Telegram and the Slack group to see if there are any updates. No, always no.

The excitement came when it was the day until the scholarship announcement. Everyone was super nervous, and there was even a silent period in all the teams and forums when nobody was talking, but even if there was one message everyone would GET A HEART ATTACK. I was also nervous since I saw so many great works in Youtube Playlist and I was actually thinking that everyone else’s work was better than mine. With that tense heart, I waited for a long time.

Winning a scholarship

And finally, the phone vibrates. And I knew there was a new Email. I didn’t click on the mail app immediately. Instead, I closed my eyes, thinking the time I finish my playground. I opened my eyes and click into the mail app. An Email named “You got a scholarship” came into my eyes. And I suddenly up my chair, cheering to myself! After a short while of celebration, I reopened that mail, closed, then opened it again. I couldn’t believe that I just won a scholarship!!! My work actually paid off!

And that’s my experience of getting a scholarship in 2017. Now, I have a whole new opinion: WWDC Scholarship, or even other challenges in our life, is difficult. But once you put your heart and bring all your passion to it. Nothing could stop you! Always believe in yourself and always think that great things would happen if you try your best.

More updates about WWDC and my stories for attending this year’s WWDC will be posted. Follow @ShunzheMa on Twitter to get updates!

Wanna have a look at the letter for “You got a scholarship”?

2017 WWDC Scholarship Winner, young iOS developer, High School Student, Patty Monster, Technology Lover.

Shunzhe Ma