MGA Student Wins Coveted Scholarship to Attend Iconic Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Monday, April 29, 2019 12:00 AM
Categories: School of Information Technology | Honors/Awards | Students | Pressroom

Macon, GA


Michael Koohang, a Middle Georgia State University graduating senior, is one of just 350 students to win a scholarship to attend this year's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Calif., an iconic event where the company showcases software and technologies and announces new products.

WWDC tickets are coveted by prospective attendees, whom Apple selects via lottery. Most attendees pay $1,599 for the week-long event, which is June 3-7 this year, but Apple awards scholarships to 350 students who apply by entering a tech challenge. Winners, including Koohang, receive a ticket to the conference, lodging for the week, and a one-year membership in the Apple Developer Program for eligible accounts. WWDC 2018 had 6,000 attendees from 77 countries, including the 350 scholarship recipients.

Among many other things, Koohang and the other scholarship recipients will get to meet and talk with Apple CEO Tim Cook. To apply for a scholarship, the 18-year-old had to submit a playground, which is an app made on Apple’s software program, Xcode. Describing his project to Apple, Koohang wrote:

The playground I built for this submission centers around privacy. My main goal was to create a fun, interactive puzzle-based game to express the importance of digital privacy through an iPhone. In a time where everything is becoming increasingly digital, it can be very easy to lose sight of the vital foundation that privacy sets for how we use technology in society. It serves as an anchor to our moral dignity and human rights, ideas and concepts that can sometimes become blurry when we immerse ourselves in technology. Reiterating these ideas through a fun game was an exciting prospect, and I saw it as an opportunity for an educative and fun reinforcement of the importance of privacy. I also happen to be currently taking a class in software security and learned about a few different security concepts that I could apply in the puzzles.

Koohang, who lives in Kathleen, initially was a Middle Georgia State (MGA) dual-enrollment student. He has already graduated from Houston County High School and will finish MGA in May with his bachelor's degree in information technology with a concentration in software engineering. He will be the youngest student in the history of post-consolidation Middle Georgia State to earn a bachelor's degree.

As he prepares to enroll at Georgia Tech this fall to work on a master's degree in computer science, specializing in human-computer interaction, Koohang leaves Middle Georgia State with an impressive record of accomplishment. MGA recently named him the 2019 Academic Recognition Day Scholar, a University System of Georgia award given to elite students who demonstrate high academic achievement and strong commitment to service. In MGA's School of Information Technology, he worked as an assistant in the robotics and intelligent systems lab, where he managed and participated in many research projects. He interned at Georgia Tech through the 2018 Civic Data Science program, where he worked on a project called "RatWatch," which aimed to document and model the rat infestation issue within the city of Atlanta through SMS data collection.

Koohang has participated in various hackathons, including HackGT. With fellow IT student Deep Patel, he took first place at the 2019 Collegiate Cup competition by developing a web app he and Patel called "Spark," designed to empower and connect educators by providing them with the tools and support they need to learn and teach computer science to middle- and high-school students. Besides MGA, the state colleges and universities that sent teams to the competition included Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

Koohang often talks about the importance of coding in improving communities.

"Ever since I discovered my passion for software engineering, my main goal has been to create software that has a positive impact on people’s lives," he said. "In order to do that, I’ve set my mind to work as a software engineer within the private sector, while also working on open-source projects in my spare time. I find software engineering to be extremely logical, but also equally creative. It’s this perfect blend, coupled with the immediate impact that software can have on people, that makes me passionate about pursuing such a career."

At WWDC, Koohang will attend panels and lab sessions with Apple engineers. He said he hopes to learn more about Apple's values towards design and privacy through the software they showcase, as well as how their most popular technologies work under the hood. Cook will give the Monday-morning keynote address, which is typically when he announces new consumer products. When the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs addressed these gatherings, his speeches were called "Stevenotes."

Koohang said attending the conference is the realization of a childhood dream.

"When I was 12, a family friend introduced me to my first MacBook Pro, and I instantly fell in love," he said. "It wasn't only with the product, but with the company behind it. I developed a huge appreciation for Apple’s desire to create user experiences that enrich people’s lives and their ability to create hardware and software that is so beautifully and meticulously designed. Shortly after that experience, I purchased my own MacBook Pro and began developing apps for the iPhone. This is when I discovered WWDC and the chance to win a scholarship to attend the conference."

Koohang submitted an app in 2017 in an effort to win a scholarship for that year's WWDC but didn't get accepted. He kept at it, though, sacrificing his spring break this year to make another attempt. He finished and submitted the new app less than 10 minutes before this year's deadline. When Apple emailed him informing him he had won a scholarship, Koohang felt "pure shock and joy."

"Words cannot describe how thankful I am for my MGA professors for teaching me the skills I needed in order to make the submission," Koohang said. "My family and friends supported me through the entire process, believed in me and knew that I could achieve this very special goal of mine. I couldn’t have done it without them.”