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Powerful Apps, Clean Code: My Advanced iOS Bootcamp in the Netherlands

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Katie Macoy

Editor’s note: When Katie Macoy of Aliens Are Among Us wanted to sharpen her development skills, she turned to the Big Nerd Ranch Advanced iOS bootcamp to get the know-how she needed.

Want to learn programming in Europe? Check out the class schedule. Want to know what our bootcamps in Europe are like? Read on.


After working for more than two years as a software developer, you finally gain enough knowledge to understand just how much you have yet to learn! My new learning journey kicked off last week at Big Nerd Ranch’s five-day Advanced iOS bootcamp.

Distraction-Free Learning

Epe classroom Our classroom at the European Ranch.

The class itself takes place in Epe, a rural town about an hour outside of Amsterdam. One of my classmates remarked that it was one of the most remote places in the entirety of the Netherlands. Someone responded, “Isn’t the highway only four kilometers from here?” Well, it’s a densely populated country, so this is about as rural as it gets! Still, the quiet farm town provides a distraction-free backdrop for a week of intensive learning.

We stayed at Villa Heidebad, a comfortable conference hotel situated in the middle of the fields and forests of rural Epe. At Villa Heidebad, we got not only housing but also three meals a day and unlimited coffee (which my classmates seemed to appreciate!).

After settling into my room, I got the chance to meet my classmates and teacher, Jonathan Saggau, over dinner. I shortly knew I was amongst nerds: as soon as the introductions were over, the rest of the dinner conversation delved into the history of Apple, gripes about iOS 7, and the ins and outs of Objective-C.

Even in a class of eight, we represented four nationalities and people of all ages. Everyone had a unique skill set and a background in development. This diversity proved invaluable by the end of the week, as we were able to share our knowledge with each other.

We Made Fire

Epe horses Horses in the fields.

The first day of classes began at 9 a.m. We dove straight into storyboards, the “new” way of handling interfaces in iOS. Though storyboards have been around for more than a year, many people (including myself) had not worked with them extensively. We programmers can get stuck in our ways, but Jonathan was able to guide us painlessly in the transition.

During a break, we took advantage of our rural surroundings and took a walk around the Dutch farms—and promptly got lost. Luckily, everyone had an iPhone with GPS (duh), so we were shortly back in the classroom with clearer minds. Keeping up the pace, we moved to Core Animation. We built an app that taught us to make custom segues (that is, transitions between screens) via our storyboard by creating a folding effect. My memory of geometry principles was a little dusty, but Jonathan guided us in the right direction, and eventually we all had our fancy animations working. After a tough day, we ate a nice dinner as a group and ran straight back to the classroom, where Jonathan stayed to answer questions and dive more deeply into the topics covered that day.

afternoon-walk Our afternoon walk.

The rapid pace and wide range of topics continued through the remainder of the course. Luckily, the advanced course material does not build sequentially chapter by chapter. Therefore, the last days of the course were an à la carte menu of programming topics that we democratically voted for. Everyone got to see a little of something they used in their work, though I suspect that some people voted for what they thought was cool: One of the most highly requested lectures allowed us to build an iPhone app that showed fire on the bottom of the screen generated through a particle effect. Will I be using this effect in a B2B app? Probably not. Was it still awesome? Definitely.

Practical, Real-World Solutions

Overall, the course gave us a glimpse into a vast array of topics that allow developers to create powerful apps and clean code. We were able to make practical, real-world solutions and delve into the abstract theory behind it. Even with our varying degrees of experience and unique backgrounds, I can confidently say that everyone walked out with more iOS knowledge than they walked in with.

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Katie Macoy

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