Small Business Spotlight: Code Ninjas

At Code Ninjas, stealth teaching is the weapon of choice.

By building video games, children aged 7 to 14 learn logical-thinking, problem-solving and computer programming. Along the way, these “ninjas” also sharpen their math and reading skills. However, every activity is pressure-free and focused on fun.

At Code Ninjas, children learn more than how to work a computer. Hands-on projects include assembling a snap circuit that will sound an alarm when complete. Aaron Morris, 8, left, and his brother Ryan, 10, test the audio on their snap circuit.

“The last thing they want to do after school is more school,” said Alice Beatson, who owns the Morrisville location with her husband Chris.

Code Ninjas is more like a child-sized coding studio. For a monthly membership fee, parents can drop off kids after school Monday-Thursday or on Saturday, for an hour at a time, up to eight times a month.

The glass-walled instructional area is deliberately set up to foster small group activities, from assembling mechanical claws, building robot dogs or sitting at computers.

Instructors, or senseis, coach the ninjas through a curriculum that is built around Javascript. White-belt exercises introduce basic logic and other programming concepts, and by the time ninjas achieve their black belt, they will have built a functional video game that they can promote on the app store.

Beatson says that as the children work through the curriculum, their perspective changes. Instead of consumers of technology, they become creators of technology. She explains more about how that happens, and what attracted her to the business.

What makes Code Ninjas stand out among area kids’ programs?

Code Ninjas provides a fun and safe place where gaming is celebrated. Kids gain confidence in coding, math, logic and problem-solving all while having a blast. Our curriculum is self-paced but not self-taught. Ninjas love the support and instruction they receive from our incredible team of Code Senseis, which is what we call our instructors. Collaboration, encouragement and teamwork are pillars of our program.

Owner Alice Beatson sits with Will Hogan, 9, during a recent day-camp at Code Ninjas.

What’s been the best aspect of owning a business?

Despite taking the risk of owning our own business, we have been overwhelmed by the support from our community, schools and parents. We are truly proud of what we have created in our center and are humbled by all of the positive reactions.

Have there been any lessons you’ve learned since you opened about a year ago?

We have learned so many lessons in our first year — the biggest one being not to sweat the small stuff. Things don’t always go as planned, but I deeply feel as long as we are providing the best experience and a world-class curriculum with the right people by our side, our kids will gain an invaluable skill that will serve them the rest of their lives.

Lizzy Hogan, 7, works through coding exercises on the computer.

What attracted you to the franchise?

Code Ninjas encompassed everything we were looking for in a franchise, and we were one of the first buyers. Code Ninjas started in March 2017, and we signed on with them in August.

Chris has been in IT for 25 years. He started as a coder, and now he is the CTO of NeoNova, an internet company. So, this is in his wheelhouse. Myself, I have a medical background. I spent 23 years as a respiratory therapist, and I ran an oxygen company for many years. We thought with my operational management experience and his IT experience, that this would be a good fit.

Why is it important for kids to learn about coding?

Our world is changing rapidly with the advancements in technology. It is important to understand technology and how it works. While not everyone will choose a career in technology, learning to code provides kids critical-thinking skills, logic, problem-solving and teamwork. Code Ninjas gives kids the confidence to pursue their dreams.

Benton Lewis, 7, gets a high-five after completing his snap circuit and sounding his alarm. Other tech-savvy projects for the “ninjas” include building robot dogs and assembling mechanical claws.

What do you say about the “too much screen time isn’t healthy” concern?

Children are typically here for only an hour at a time, a couple of hours a week. In that one-hour time, we typically do about 45 minutes on the computer with the curriculum, and the other 15 minutes is spent on some sort of STEM activity — whether it’s coding robots through a maze, or answering riddle-type questions — it’s something different every day.

We feel like their screen time is constructive screen time. They’re learning not only how to do something on the computer, like play a game, but actually how it works and how to control it — how to make the computer do what you want it to do.

The kids are already interested in gaming, so that’s why Code Ninjas uses the gaming industry to teach these kids the programming. Once they figure out how to control the computer, then the sky’s the limit.

3033 Village Market Place, Morrisville
(919) 694-7171

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *