Local business teaches kids how to code through games and robotics.
Take a look at job postings across several different professions today, and chances are some form of coding is listed as a requirement. Whether it’s basic or proficient-level, coding has become a relevant literacy in the digital age. At Code Ninjas in Edina/Richfield, kids learn to code through a game-based and robotics curriculum that weaves in teamwork, logic, math and problem solving.
“We teach kids to code through building, designing and playing their own video games,” says Jon Blood, the area developer and owner of the Edina/Richfield location as well as the Prior Lake/Savage and several other Twin Cities locations.
The program is self-paced and self-guided but not self-taught, Blood says. Senseis, or mentors, work with kids ages 7–14 as they move through the curriculum in two one-hour to one two-hour sessions per week.
“Our senseis, who typically have a strong affinity for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), love working with the ninjas to assist whenever they need help,” Blood says.
Starting at a white belt, ninjas progress through nine belts of games and robotics that get more fun and challenging as they progress. How fast they move depends on their interests, proficiency and the age of the ninja, which takes anywhere between two and four years, Blood says. “At a black belt, our final belt, kids are required to publishing an app on an app store as part of that curriculum,” he says.
Some kids are more task-oriented and move through the curriculum at a quick pace, Blood says. Other kids have a huge imagination and interest in design and graphics, so they may spend more time in their game, because they can add more to it.
Apart from coding, ninjas learn critical thinking, reading, compression and thought logic, Blood says.
In May of 2018, the Edina location was one of the first 10 centers to open in the U.S. Now, more than 100 exist across the country with more than 250 projected to be open in 2019, Blood says.
He and his business partner Darren Dierbeck were inspired to bring Code Ninjas to the Twin Cities, because they saw a gap in that type of STEM-based learning that schools and camps didn’t fulfill, Blood says.
Edina residents and parents of two ninjas Dominic and Brooke Allocco signed their kids up when the business first came to town. They think it’s an important skill and teaches a good way of thinking. “We really wanted our kids to learn how to code and be comfortable doing that and thinking in that fashion at a young age,” Dominic Allocco says.
Their two boys Alex, 10, and Andy, 8, have moved onto the second level, which is a yellow belt, [and Alex was preparing to get his orange belt] and they love it.
Programs range from $99 to $259 per month. They also offer week long summer camps, single-day camps, Parents’ Night Out evenings and birthday parties.
Code ninjas Camps
Code Ninjas offers 11 different summer camps. Learn more along with schedules at codeninjas.com/camps/mn-edina.
Roblox Create (ages 7–14)—Ninjas build, plan and design their on 3D world in Roblox, a family-friendly online gaming platform like Minecraft.
Code Drones (ages 9–14)—This camp lets kids see their code in action by coding their own drone. They’ll learn to make it do tricks and follow certain flight paths.
Hack Attack! (ages 10–14)—Students take on the challenge of fixing broken games in this competitive camp. They have to use the logic of playtesting and debugging to make the games winnable once again.