Recently we had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Johnetta MacCalla, the Chief Executive Officer at Zyrobotics, LLC about Tommy the Turtle - Learn to Code
Please share with us the backstory of what motivated you to create this app.
Zyrobotics has always been interested in providing interactive STEM apps and tools for early childhood education. It was a logical extension to introduce kids to the concepts of coding since computers have become such an important part of our lives. By showing kids how much fun programming can be early on, hopefully they will be more motivated to pursue the concept during the later stages of their development.
How did you decide which platforms to release your app on and do you plan on releasing your app to other platforms?
We chose to release our apps on iOS and Android platforms (including Amazon Apps) to maximize exposure. Currently we have no plans to release on other platforms.
How is your app different than the rest of the market? Which unique need does it fill?
Our app teaches the basic skills necessary to do programming at a very early age, 5 to 6 years old. Most other apps are focused on middle school or high school programming. By providing this at the pre-K stage, we help prepare and predispose the child to be more receptive to the more difficult apps that focus on older kids.
What features do you hope to roll out to your app in the future?
We plan to roll out a number of features to provide more engagement and learning, including incorporating additional commands, challenges, and the ability to have children create code that enables their characters to play with each other.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of the creation of this app?
The most rewarding aspect in creating this coding app is that we came up with an engaging app that is accessible to kids with diverse learning needs. Kids of all abilities can be empowered though learning and obtain a really good grasp of basic coding concepts.
What is the coolest or most innovative feature of your app?
The coolest feature of our app is the fact that Tommy, which is an engaging turtle, jumps, sings and moves upon command. Both the challenge mode and free play mode gives a child's imagination free reign to explore. Most kids, once they start playing it, are reluctant to stop and it rarely occurs to them that they are learning.
What surprised you most in your journey to create this app?
The one thing that surprised us most about the journey in creating this app was discovering that there was not a lot available on the market for kids of this age that teach the sequential thought processes necessary for programming. The emphasis of most coding apps is on older kids and so the apps are more difficult.
Which other mobile apps or technology have inspired you?
A mobile app that has inspired us is the Scratch coding app made by MIT. Basically our app is a pre-Scratch app that is applicable to younger children and is accessible.
Do you have any recommendations or advice for others wanting to create a mobile app?
The main recommendations we have are 1) Try to develop something that fulfills a need that is currently not being met and 2) Get lots of feedback and listen to the user.
You can view Tommy the Turtle - Learn to Code here
For more information, visit: http://www.CodingwithTommy.com