Robots are taking over, but not like in an old science fiction movie. Automation is replacing jobs all around us these days, putting special challenges on kids growing up in today’s technology-driven environment.
Enter Code Ninjas, a learning center that teaches children ages 7 to 14 how to write computer code in different languages (Java Script, Lua, and C#, to get technical about it) and work with robotics in a martial arts-themed environment. A new location just opened in West Frisco, at 252 W Stonebrook Pkwy., Ste. 700. It joins locations in other Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, including Mansfield, Southlake, Murphy, McKinney, Coppell, Lewisville, and Frisco; each Code Ninjas outlet is independently owned.
“We picked West Frisco because it is a great location with lots of families,” says David Agius, co-owner of the West Frisco branch. “It is situated on the border between Frisco and Little Elm, with The Colony not too far away. It’s an ideal location.”
Agius, who lives in Frisco, runs the facility with his good friend Steve Spadoni, who calls Detroit home.
“Steve and I are lifelong friends,” says Agius. “We went to high school together and were best man at each other’s weddings, but our careers have taken different paths until recently. I worked for Ford Motor Company while Steve’s the chief technical officer for Fujikara. We’ve been looking to do something together for the past five or six years. We vetted different business and came across Code Ninjas. We though it was a great concept and a meaningful business to be in.”
Agius knows that kids don’t want to “go to school after being in school all day,” so he strives to make Code Ninjas as enjoyable of an experience as possible.
“They learn to code by building video games and working with robotics and drones,” he says. “The focus is to create a warm, fun environment for learning. It’s a great program that is self-paced with flex scheduling. If they’re particularly adept at something, they can move through the curriculum a little bit quicker. If they run into challenges, we have our code Sensei staff members to help them. If they’re a little slower, they don’t fall behind like in a traditional classroom setting.”
Code Ninjas’ game-based curriculum is composed of nine belts, as in martial arts classes. With a little help from the Code Senseis and fellow students, they can advance from white belt all the way up to black belt. Instead of actual belts, they receive color-coded wristbands that mark their graduation to the next level, complete with “Belt-Up” celebrations noting their accomplishments.
According to Agius, the self-paced, flex scheduling format of Code Ninjas helps parents, as well as kids.
“There are no specific class times,” he says, “so parents aren’t running across town to make a time. The center is conveniently opened from 3 to 7 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday. Kids can come in two hours per week during those times. Either two one-hour sessions or one two-hour session. By the time a child finishes the program, they will publish an app in an app store.”
Code Ninjas also offers Game Builders Club camps lasting up to five days. These are built around such popular games as “Minecraft” and “Roblox.”
Agius says kids who enroll with Code Ninjas will learn valuable life lessons, in addition to computer training.
“We think that by creating really fun environment for boys and girls to learn in after school, they pick up valuable skills that will help them later, whether they go into computer coding or not,” he says. “They will pick up skills like problem solving and teamwork. Plus, learning to code is an important STEM activity,” which is an anagram for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The Code Ninjas program costs $249 per month for a standard Create Regular package, and parents can try before they buy.
“We invite all parents and children to come in for a tour,” Agius says. “Our center director can talk to parents about curriculum and show them around the center. Children can go through our complimentary 30-minute game building session where they use a language called Scratch, which is an object-oriented programming language, to build a game.”