Code Community: An Assistive Technology Intensive




July 15 - August 3, 2018

Develop basic computer programming and electronic hardware literacy in pursuit of enriching the lives of children with disabilities and medically complex needs.

In small teams, students will work in collaboration with children and therapists from a local pediatric center to design, ideate, and present initial iterations and prototypes of assistive technology devices for the center. In courses with faculty, students will learn not only fundamental programming and hardware skills, but also project-planning by taking a design challenge from conception to prototype in just three weeks. Students should be passionate about human-centered, collaborative design and learning, as well as hold a strong desire to explore the possibilities and limitations of technology.

We welcome students entering the 10th, 11th, or 12th grades the following fall. Commuter students must be age 14 or older at the start of the program. Residential students must be age 15 or older at the start of the program.

Program Details


Morning Class—“Visual Programming”

Students will learn the basics of software computer programming, first tackling the fundamentals of computer code in Javascript and/or Python (variables, arrays, functions, and objects) and then learning to apply these fundamentals to project development. Students will work in pairs on coding projects and meet one-on-one with the instructor once a week.

Afternoon Class—“Hardware Hacking”

The afternoon class moves our interactions with computers from the digital to the physical, through an exploration of firmware programming and hardware circuits. Students will learn corresponding fundamentals of computer code (variables, arrays, functions, and objects) in hardware applications. They will also learn the basics of Arduino microcontrollers and circuit design in working with voltage, resistance, and amps. They will develop physical mechanisms to control graphical interfaces and other projects developed in the morning course. Students will work in pairs on projects and meet one-on-one with the instructor once a week.

Workshop—“Introduction to the Medical Setting: Pediatrics and Possibilities”

This workshop will prepare students for site visits to the Elizabeth Seton Students Pediatric Center, a residential care center for children with disabilities and medically complex needs. Topics covered will include an overview of the machines at the Center, what a typical day is like for a resident of the Center, and infection control. Students will learn about the ways in which the residents interact with their environment and protocols for being at the Center.

Students will research and present on a topic—such as a commons diagnosis—to the class. They will work together to imagine life for residents, including role playing different scenarios and discussing case studies. They will also experiment with simple toy switch hacks to increase residents’ accessibility to toys and games.

“My goal for the students is to have fun and try new things. I hope the students will become familiar and comfortable with children with special needs and be themselves. I would love to see thinking outside the box in order to help the residents at ESPC have an experience any other child can have.” —James Maxson

Sample Projects

  • Adapting games to a child’s abilities while taking into considerations their constraints

  • Developing a virtual music space

  • Prototyping a sensory toy that can be used by children with varying abilities

  • Creating individualized solutions for challenges each child faces



Jason Beck

Jason BeckJason Beck works for the Adaptive Design Association, a nonprofit that creates custom adaptations for children and adults with disabilities so they can meet their full potential. A graduate of the Interactive Technology Program (ITP) at NYU, Jason combines new technologies to create assistive tech devices for children to help facilitate play. He also is completing a research residency at ITP and NYU’s Ability Project—a research space dedicated to the intersection between disability and technology.

Visiting Faculty

James Maxson

James MaxsonJames Maxson is a music therapist at the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center (ESPC). He will be visiting the Code Community Program to teach a community impact course and will facilitate ESPC site visits.

As a music therapist, James works with residents and staff of ESPC, creating music within a humanistic and client-centered framework. James has collaborated with students and instructors at NYU, Montclair State University, Molloy College, SUNY New Paltz, and Sarah Lawrence College. He has taught music therapy and provided opportunities for students and instructors to create adapted technology for residents of the ESPC. He has also conducted workshops with DIYAbility on the fundamentals of adapting toys for individuals with special needs.

James sources equipment and parts for making and adapting toys and instruments at the ESPC. He also leads and organizes the initiative for iPad integration into daily life for residents of ESPC. He was recently appointed to the position of “Innovation Media Developer” to account for the work he has done with producing videos with residents and staff that further the ESPC mission and online presence, garnering tens of thousands of views on Facebook and YouTube.

Avery Erwin-McGuire

Avery Erwin-McGuireAvery Erwin-McGuire is an independent software engineer and educator. Her undergraduate degree in computer science from Goucher college focused on both computational theory and embedded engineering. During her time there, she conducted research into robotic artificial intelligence. She was awarded the Phi Beta Kappa Nancy Engelhardt Memorial Prize in the Sciences for her work using two-player games as an environment to demonstrate heuristic decision making.

Prior to her independent work, Avery was a software engineer in the computer chip industry designing low level real-time code for robots and sensor systems in factory settings. Now she creates and teaches technology and engineering workshops to the children and adults in the Westchester area. Her educational style focuses on what she believes are the vital engineering instincts and habits—things like tolerance of frustration, fairness, and systematic reasoning—without sacrificing academic rigor.

Teaching Approach

  • James Maxson: I approach teaching as a dynamic interaction between myself and the students. I want to push students to the best of their abilities while supporting them in what challenges them both intellectually and emotionally, as this course might introduce students to new experiences.
  • Avery Erwin-McGuire: When you take a class with me, expect to come in ready to be a part of a warm and rigorous environment. I think technology is for everyone—absolute beginners are welcome! It’s my job to meet students where they are, and lead them to edge of their knowledge. I value developing the intellectual confidence of each student by challenging them to rise beyond their limits and try something that feels really hard. Feeling frustrated means that your brain is getting stronger!

Sample Schedule

8:30 - 9:30 a.m. Breakfast (and time for conferences with faculty)
9:30 a.m. - Noon Morning Class—“Visual Programming”
Noon - 1:30 p.m. Lunch (and time for conferences with faculty)
1:30 - 3:30 p.m. Afternoon Class—“Hardware Hacking”
3:30 - 5 p.m. “Introduction to the Medical Setting”; site visits (will start at 3 p.m.); group work; project work
5 - 7 p.m. Break, Dinner (and time for conferences with faculty)
7 - 11 p.m. Optional Summer Programs community building programs on campus
11 p.m. Curfew (midnight on weekends)

Program Costs

Registration fee $50
Deposit $250
Remaining tuition $2588
Non-A/C Housing $1950
A/C Housing $2390
Meal Plan

$987 (full)

$357 (lunch only)

Students are strongly encouraged to bring their own laptop.