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A Chat With The Youngest App Developer At WWDC

We talk to 9-year-old Anvitha Vijay about Apple's latest announcements, coding, UI design, and getting Craig Federighi's phone number.

A Chat With The Youngest App Developer At WWDC

[Photo: Mark Sullivan for Fast Company]

The youngest developer at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco is 9-year-old Anvitha Vijay. Invited to the conference as part of an Apple scholarship program, she had a VIP seat by the stage at Monday's big press event and was even shouted out by Apple CEO Tim Cook in front of thousands of her developer peers.

Anvitha met with Cook and showed him her app ("He was really nice.") She even hit up Apple software chief Craig Federighi for his personal phone number; he gave it to her, with the proviso that she keep it secret.

Like every other developer at WWDC, Anvitha is here to learn about latest upgrades to the platform on which she develops, iOS. Here she is talking about her favorite new features.

Already a bit of a tech celebrity, Anvitha’s been trying to break away to attend some of the developer sessions but has been tied down with press interviews (like this one) for much of the time she’s been here this week.

And I can see why. Frankly, she’s adorable. She’s Indian, and, being from Melbourne, Australia, speaks with that pleasant upward lilt many Aussies have. She likes to talk about code.

Tim Cook and Anvitha VijayPhoto: courtesy of Apple

The budding developer got into programming after she created an app concept called "GoalsHi" when she was 7. The app concept won her a $10,000 prize in a contest in Perth, she says. "After that many people told me to get into coding, and I thought ‘I have to get into coding if I want to make it real.'"

She went on to build the Smartkins Animals app, which shows a hundred kinds of animals to the users in rapid succession along with the sound each one makes. "It stimulates right brain learning," she explains. Her other app, Smartkins Rainbow Colours, features different-colored animated monsters to help kids learn their colors.

She thinks coding should be taught in school, and that with new tools that are coming out, more students will get into it. She’s especially excited about Apple’s newly announced, kid-oriented development tool Swift Playgrounds. "I think if I could teach them in the Swift Playgrounds app it may be fun," she says.

Anvitha told me building the apps has been partly a hobby, but also serious work. She particularly likes building app prototypes and wireframing (sketching) all the screens. "I find UX design really cool because it goes into problem solving and how everything really works," she says. "I find that prototyping, coding, and experience are all kind of linked because it all goes to the flow of how the app works."

I asked her where she thinks all this app-building might lead. "I want to be an innovator to build things that people will love and make a difference in people’s lives through technology, so I think this is one of my first steps toward doing that," she replied.

Tim Cook and Anvitha Vijay chat alongside some Apple EmployeesPhoto: courtesy of Apple

After WWDC wraps up, Anvitha and her family are headed down to L.A. for a trip to another California institution: Disneyland.

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