Family & Lifestyle

Code Jumper

Company: American Printing House for the Blind

Category: Accessibility


Tech tools currently used to teach computer coding to children are highly visual-focused, often using colored blocks on a screen to create animations that appeal to a younger audience. Recognizing that such products are not accessible to children who are blind or visually impaired, Microsoft developed Code Jumper, an innovative set of pods, plug and cords connected to an app that allows kids to learn code regardless of their level of vision.

With Code Jumper, which is distributed by the American Printing House for the Blind, children can not only learn basic programming concepts, but will also be encouraged to solve a challenge in multiple ways.

Users connect small pods to build strands of code and change sounds to create stories or songs. Each pod has unique colors and shapes so that students can identify pieces by sight or touch.

In its prototype stages, Code Jumper — then called Torino — was designed with input from the Torino Young Design Team, made up of four young, blind and visually impaired students. By working with children who are experts in the tactile world, Microsoft was able to alter the product to meet the needs and excite the minds of their young users.


The Tech Behind It

A Code Jumper kit has two main components: a hub and several pods. The hub powers the system and includes a Bluetooth radio for audio and data connections, a PC, speakers and controls for starting and stopping sound as well as volume control. Four available ports on the hub allows up to four lines of code to be constructed from the pods at the same time.

Each pod represents a line of code, connects to the main hub and has its own ports so that additional pods can be connected. Five different configurations (play, pause, loop, selection and merge) of pods are available.

With this setup, users can code songs, stories and other noises. By connecting pods to each other and playing the sequence on the Code Jumper app, students are able to create code to play classic tunes like “Row Row Row Your Boat.” Whereas one dial on a pod might change the sound, other dials control duration of a sound as well as the pitch, allowing students to create drastically different tunes with the same dials and pods.

Code Jumper will be sold with lesson plans to best help teachers implement this inclusive tool.

“Technology has the power to be an equalizer — breaking down barriers, and giving everyone a level playing field. That’s what Code Jumper does,” said the American Printing House for the Blind.

See Code Jumper at the CES 2020 Innovation Awards Showcase.

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