Westland student picked for Apple camp

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Westland High School senior Bryson Palmer was among a handful of students throughout the country selected to participate in Apple’s Engineering Technology Camp. In the past, those chosen would receive a three week, all-expense paid trip to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. where they would learn software development and coding from company employees but due to COVID-19 restrictions the camp will be held virtually this summer.

Bryson Palmer is a young man in demand.

If a problem arises with a phone or computer or occasionally a television set, he is the one friends, family and neighbors come to in their time of need.

It does not matter to them that he holds no job in the field, nor does he have a degree in software development (though he is working on it through courses at Columbus State Community College); what matters is that he is always willing to take the time to listen to their issue and that he has a dogged determination to come up with a solution.

“Most of the time I can figure out what is going on,” said the westside teen, “but when I can’t, I always feel so bad that they have to go and pay for it.”

Palmer said he does not like that feeling of sending something away for expensive repairs and replacements, and he certainly does not like not knowing how to solve a problem. So he makes it his mission to learn more about the product, its components and how it works “behind the screen.”

He added that he does not mind that his drive for knowledge only makes his door more attractive to those friends, family and neighbors when their gadgets start to default.

“It’s what I want to do for my career so anything that could help me learn more about this field is fine with me,” Palmer said.

And with his recent acceptance into a summer camp with a global company known for technological innovation, chances are high he is going to absorb even more skills.

Knowing of computers and other electronic devices is not something Palmer always had an interest in. He never took apart keyboards or remotes to see their inner components and he was never scolded for taking apart his sister’s toys to see if he could put them back together.

“Tinkering with gadgets was never something I did,” he said. “It really wasn’t until high school that I took an interest in how computer-based products work.”

Palmer had just entered his freshman year at Westland High School when he was given a career assessment test. The results, he said, recommended an engineering or software development pathway for his analytical mind.

“I am not an artsy or creative person at all,” he said, “so I wasn’t that surprised when the results listed those fields as my strengths.”

Intrigued by the options, he enrolled in a computer programming course and immediately discovered an aptitude for it.

“Bryson took to the material right away,” said Jamie Dato, a business and computer programming educator at the school. “He was the student other students went to when they had a problem.”

When his sophomore year came around, he took an advanced computer programming course and then enrolled in the software development program at the Accelerated Learning Center for his junior year.

Knowing his passion for the field, Dato told Palmer that Apple was accepting applications into their Engineering Technology Camp (ETC) and encouraged him to apply.

“I thought the chances of being accepted into this summer camp were really low,” Palmer said. “But despite those odds, I applied because I thought it would be a great experience if I were to be selected.”

With his application submitted, he tried not to dream about that three week, all-expense paid trip to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. where he and a handful of other high school students would create products under the tutelage of company employees.

“It was really hard not to think about,” he said.

What kept his mind off that dream was another one: trying to qualify for the boys state wrestling tournament

“It had been more than a decade since our school had a wrestler compete at the state tournament and I wanted to end that streak,” he said.

And in early March, he did just that. (Teammate Jakob Hurley also qualified, and Tyler Jude qualified as an alternate.)

Then, 12 hours before he was to compete, the tournament was canceled to slow the spread of a novel coronavirus.

“I was really bummed,” he said. “This had been a goal of mine for years and to have this happen was really disheartening.”

Still reeling from that cancellation and the closure of his school, he received good news.

“About three weeks later I learned I had been selected to attend the Apple camp,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

He said with all that was going on regarding the coronavirus, he had a hunch the camp would not be held as it was in the past.

“I was hoping they would tell us that it had been pushed back and that they would fly us out there some other time for this program,” he said.

But that was not to be: several weeks ago, the 25 students across the country who were selected to participate in ETC were informed the program would be held virtually in July.

Though they will not get to fly out to California and pick the brains of the developers in-person, they will still get access to the staff and they will still be able to break off into groups and create products of unknown origin.

“They’re keeping their plans locked down tight right now,” said Palmer. “I don’t really know what they have up their sleeves.”

He said that while it would have been nice to experience the program as intended, he is not going to dwell on the missed opportunity.

“This is still going to be an exciting and educational experience for me,” Palmer said. “I am so grateful to have been selected and I am looking forward to learning from these innovators and applying their knowledge to real-life situations.”

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