Designing and developing a playful experience for a child with special needs to learn Morse code.


36 hours

My Role

User Research

Concept Development

User Testing

Front-End Developer


Elizabeth Ferguson

Sandy Hseih

Hau Yuan

Mithru Vigneshwara


Morse Video is done as a part of Morse Code Game Jam, a  three day event in collaboration with Google, and Adaptive Design Association. The goal of the game jam was to design and develop games for five potential users of Morse code who are not able to enjoy games using standard controls. 


With just a two-switch input, Morse allows people to access a new world of possibilities for accessible communication and gaming. Especially for people who are differently abled, typing with the Morse code keyboard can save time and energy. You can read more about Google's work on Morse Code here .


Ben is a 9-year-old kid with special needs. He loves riding trains and watching them on TV. He can watch his favorite movies an infinite number of times. He has recently learned to isolate his finger on the iPad.

How can we design and develop a playful experience for Ben to learn Morse Code so that he can use it at home?

How can we do it in 36 hours?


Our team met Ben and his mom Chardell at Adaptive Design Inc in New York City. We spent about 3 hours interviewing Ben's mom about his daily routine, his hobbies, and his school curriculum. She also showed us his favorite games and told us about his favorite movies. An Occupational Therapist helped ask important questions.

"He loves riding in the subway or even watching trains on TV or youtube. We recently downloaded this train game on the iPad and he absolutely loves it. When the train goes into the tunnel, he gets so restless(because he wants to watch the train move)"

"He loves watching movies with the family. He can sit for hours picking the movie he wants to watch from our DVD collection. If it's from Netflix, he calls me or his sisters for help"

- Chardell, Ben's Mom


Our approach was to introduce, reinforce, test and reward. We wanted Ben to keep on trying and not lose hope when he got the answer wrong. Since we knew he would be persistent to watch the clip, we directed him to the main screen when he answers wrong twice.


  • We wanted Ben to choose what clips he wants for a reward. That way he will be motivated to keep on trying to get the right morse pattern. 

  • I suggested that we get Ben's mom to give a voice over for the lessons and reward statements like "GOOD JOB!" because this would comfort him and add another layer of familiarity.

  • We started with easy letters first- The ones that have one or two patterns(dit and dah). 

  • We chose iPad as the end device because he was already learning to use a touch screen app at school for communicating. So using an iPad would be familiar and he can continue to learn to isolate his finger.

"I would love for him to play this by himself. That way I can just put him in his high chair to play and do my chores."


"At his school, they are teaching him to use Touch app for communication. It looks like this."

- Chardell, Ben's Mom

We built his iPad a case that can stand up at an angle or lay flat on the surface so that he can play the game by himself without needing his mom to hold the iPad up.

Case designed and built by Sandy Hsieh


In the first round of user testing, we noticed that the initial train animation and sound that was intended to grab his attention to the screen did not work. The animation was too fast for him to notice it. So we added a start screen with two trains making the choo-choo sound and slowed down the animation of the train below so we have enough time to grab his attention. This worked!


1. Pick a favorite video from the train

2. Learn the code from the audio-visual lesson

3. Watch the favorite video



Ben is playing the game at home. His sisters played with him at the beginning. He has now learned to exit an app and navigate to Morse Video to play the game. Below are Instagram posts from Ben's mom of him playing at home.