ELMHURST – Shimoli Trivedi has never been one to plead with her children to stop playing video games.
Instead of banning the popular pastime, she encourages all kids to play – but they’ll have to build them first, and that’s exactly what her new Code Ninjas “dojo” in Elmhurst aims to do.
Code Ninjas is a company that teaches children 7 to 14 coding languages, including Java Script, C++ and Unity, but to keep them engaged, they’re designed onto a game-based development platform.
“Kids love video games,” Trivedi said. “We want to make sure they’re doing something that they’re having fun with it.”
The Elmhurst dojo offers camps, weeknight drop-in programs and Parents Night Out events on the weekends. While at the dojo, kids are dubbed ninjas, and their teachers are called senseis.
When asked by their senseis, the ninjas expressed that their favorite game of their weeklong camp was the “plane game,” and the most challenging was the “penguin game” – the one they were working on that day.
Designed like martial arts programs, Code Ninjas uses a nine-belt curriculum system to teach children to code. They start by earning their white belt, which consists of primarily drag-and-drop options, and can attain their black belt after four to six years of training, depending on their learning speed and frequency of course attendance.
In addition to coding, the campers are exposed to other STEM-related activities throughout the course of the camp. During the hourlong sessions, they generally spend 40 minutes on coding and 20 minutes on other STEM content, said Jake Zych, a sensei and recent York High School graduate with plans to attend Carnegie Mellon University to study computer science. STEM activities the children have done in past camps include marshmallow towers and robotic dolphins.
Code Ninjas was founded by David Graham in 2016 after he spent 17 years in software development and decided that he wanted to teach the real-life value of coding to children, according to the Code Ninjas website.
Trivedi said that her decision to open a Code Ninjas franchise in Elmhurst, located at 579-581 N. York Road, was inspired by her frustration when looking for STEM-focused camps for her son, a 9-year-old who prefers to fill his summer free time with building Legos. But when school comes around, she’s found that it’s hard to keep his passion growing.
“I had to put him in summer programs like building robots or coding, and every time he comes home after that he’s so passionate, like, ‘Look what I made, look what I created, this is something I love to do,’ ” she said. “But then I have to wait another school year to get started. At the school, it’s not a structured curriculum.”
Zych said he wished that something like Code Ninjas had existed when he was a youngster – or even just a few years ago – so that he could have gotten involved.
“Growing up, there was really nothing,” Zych said. “It’s go out of your way and use the same resources as adults or nothing.”
Though computer coding and other STEM-related activities are sometimes looked at as solely left-brain focused, Trivedi said the creativity that Code Ninjas encourages children to pursue is most inspiring to her.
“Oh, my god, when the kids come in with the imaginations that they have in them and they can use it here, it’s great,” she said.
Though the dojo’s grand opening will take place July 27, summer camps already are being offered at the Elmhurst location.