Code Ninjas aims to spark kids' interest in STEM

A new business where kids can learn to code while also having fun developing video games now is open along the Randall Road corridor.

Code Ninjas opened this past fall at 2755 Algonquin Road in Algonquin. Other Code Ninja locations near the Randall Road corridor are expected to open later this year in South Elgin and St. Charles.

Since its opening in September, the business has been drawing curious kids, as well as parents who are interested in having their children delve into the area of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Tim Yoder, center director of Code Ninjas in Algonquin, said there has been a lot of interest in the business, which is beneficial for youth in the area. He said they chose this area, in part, because of a lack of similar programs for kids.

"There is a severe lack of STEM-based programs for children in the area," Yoder said. "We found that the suburbs that surround us were all in need of a program that will help set their children up for success as they move into high school and beyond."

Code Ninjas teaches kids ages 7-14 to code through a video game-based curriculum, Yoder said. The main program is a belt curriculum, which is a flexible, drop-in program for busy families. It takes the kids from white belt to black belt in coding as they progress through the different levels of the program.

"They work through a nine-belt curriculum, where each level gets progressively harder, with new coding concepts added in each level," Yoder said.

Through the program, families pay a flat monthly fee and the children - or ninjas as they are called - can come in twice per week whenever they want for an hour each time. There are no set classes or schedules.

"Our goal is to create a learning community that brings like-minded kids together. There are lots of options where kids can focus on their sports passions, but nothing exists where kids can explore STEM in a safe and inviting environment," he said.

"The three main things we want these kids to take away is problem solving, collaboration and teamwork."

In addition to the drop-in program, Code Ninjas also offers day camps, specials on days off from school, summer camps and parent night out options, all of which focus on STEM programs.

While Yoder said the curriculum is geared toward children ages 7-14, that span is not set in stone. He said younger kids are welcome to come in and try a free trial to see if it works.

Code Ninjas is a national franchise based in Houston. Yoder said that level of corporate support behind the programs is beneficial, because they are constantly working on programs that will help students.

"We have a team of curriculum development experts that write our curriculum and consistently review and revise it to stay current," he said.

Local instructors - which they call senseis - help the kids in the individual centers, he said. The senseis, he said, are all juniors or older in high school who have taken AP computer science, have a background in various STEM clubs and a desire to work with younger kids.

The Code Ninjas center is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Yoder invites families to come give it a try.

"We would like to thank all of the families that have already come and signed up, and would like to remind anyone interested they can schedule a free trial class to learn more," he said.

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