Code Ninjas is a franchise coding program that teaches children ages 5 to 14 how to program computers by playing video games.
Helen Han, owner and operator of the new Foothills Code Ninjas at 1773 E. Prince Road, has a 10-year-old daughter who gained an interest in technology and computer programing. Han began looking for a program for her daughter to join when they lived on the east coast and came across Code Ninjas. When the Hans moved to Tucson she wanted her daughter to continue her coding education.
“Her school does not offer any computer math or coding classes, so I decided to start the Code Ninjas myself,” Han said.
Her daughter and other children can use the after-school activity to learn about developing computer programs and languages.
Students use a karate-like concept, beginning with a white belt and progressing to black belt. Each belt is a level, starting with learning the basics of coding before gradually learning more complex material. Before moving up a level the children are given a “prove yourself session” where they are given a task to prove they have mastered their coding skills in order to move up.
Once the student reaches the black belt they will eventually launch and publish an app in the app store. Progressing to a black belt varies from student to student, and depends on how often they attend class and their mastery of the subject.
“I want children to gain value from our learning, they may not become an engineer or a programmer but the skills learned and logic to problem solving will benefit them for the rest of their lives,” Han said.
The students receive an instruction book where they learn the language of coding with some help from the “sensei” in order to create their new video game. Code Ninjas allows students to learn and also socialize and share their skills.
Code Ninjas involves 3D designs similar to the video games Minecraft, Scratch, and Roblox. There are also robot-building activities involved. Other subjects learned include science, math, technology, and engineering, meaning Code Ninjas can serve as an additional after-school STEM program.
Code Ninjas is part of the growing trend of STEM-based learning for students, both in school and in outside programs. Computer programming and IT are among the fastest growing job markets nationally, growing more than twice as fast as non-STEM occupations. Analysts also predict a growing “STEM shortage,” with The National Association of Manufacturing estimating the U.S. will have to fill 3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025, and more than one million of those may go unfilled due to lack of skilled candidates.
Although Code Ninja is not offered to people over 14-years-old, they hope to maybe expand it later on and have high schoolers be involved in the program along with adults.
Code Ninjas will be opening in a new location, 1773 E. Prince Road, on Saturday, Feb. 29. For more information, visit codeninjas.com.
Bivian Contreras is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.