Samantha John and Jocelyn Leavitt

Samantha John and Jocelyn Leavitt are the co-founders of Hopscotch,a learn-to-code application for children ages eight to twelve (and all ages, really), and the first programming language for a mobile device. Samantha John studied applied mathematics, english and comparative literature at Columbia University, and went on to work as an engineer and then as a Ruby on Rails developer, where she was one of the only women in the company. She noticed the lack of programming opportunities for girls, so she built an app called Daisy the Dinosaur, in HTML5, where drag-and-drop tools teach children to make Daisy do tricks through simple programming functions. She realized that an iOS program would be more malleable, so she created the first visual programming language for a mobile device. She co-founded Hopscotch with Jocelyn Leavitt. Jocelyn Leavitt grew up in Honolulu, HI before going to Dartmouth for undergrad. She then taught 7th-11th grades, and founded a real estate company. Realizing her interest in engineering after school, she likes to think of Hopscotch as a way to compensate for that lost time. She was tired of watching children mindlessly consuming games, and wanted to see them building their own games as a game itself. For Leavitt, the app is less about computer programming, and more about building and creating, which empowers people and helps to make creating technology more accessible. Samantha and Jocelyn met in NYC through a mutual friend, and worked together at a TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon where they got a lot of attention. Together they launched Hopscotch in 2013; it was downloaded 20,000 times in its first week, and over two million times since. It has been likened to Legos, as part tool, part toy, part learning experience. Hopscotch is only available on iPhone and iPad, and allows the user to grab-and-drop, assemble, and code cute and colorful characters to move across the screen, change shape, and is entirely open ended: users can upload what they’ve built into the app, ranging from little animations to programmatic art to games. Trial and error, not aiming for perfection, exploration and having fun are key elements that empower users to build their skills. Even Hopscotch itself wasn’t “perfect” by Jocelyn’s standards, but Samantha insisted that it was ready, and they are thankful for each other and their differences which make them stronger as a team.