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Tapping into technology: Halifax’s Code Ninjas aims to spark kids’ interest in STEM

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Technology is everywhere, and the future is looking more and more automated every day. That's partly why a new business in Halifax is tapping into technology to teach. Ashley field explains.

A new centre in Halifax is teaching children how to engage with technology and, hopefully, turn them into “code ninjas.”

Lauren McLeod is just nine years old and already knows how to fly a drone.

“You just have to kind of move your finger on the iPad to make it move whatever way you want,” says McLeod.

It’s a skill she learned at Code Ninjas, which opened Jan. 13 in Halifax’s Clayton Park neighbourhood. Instructors teach kids ages 7 to 14 how to code, build and program robotics, among other STEM-related lessons.

“I learned how to code and use some of the robots,” says McLeod. “I like playing with the drone and the Sphero balls.”

READ MORE: Coding workshop aims to inspire girls to pursue technology (2018)

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Centre director Sean Plumridge says the space is designed to give kids more and better ways to engage with technology, rather than being controlled by it.

“The core of what we’re doing is we’re helping them with their complex problem-solving, their critical thinking and, of course, their creativity,” says Plumridge.

“We want to give them a better understanding of what goes into those games and to teach them that it’s not just simply about playing them, but there is a huge industry and a huge market behind building them.”

Code Ninjas programming has a belt system just like martial arts, so as students learn, they advance from white to black. The curriculum is also self-paced, which means kids can come in at any skill level.

“We teach the foundational concepts before we start to teach them algorithms or long, complex lines of code,” says Plumridge.

The Code Ninjas brand was launched in Houston, Texas, in 2016. Its founder and CEO, David Graham, says he saw an “unmet demand to teach children coding skills.”

“Parents want their children to learn the critical skills that they’ll need in the future, but it also has to be fun for kids,” Graham said in a release.

“Code Ninjas has found that sweet spot where kids have fun and parents see results, and we’re truly excited to bring our unique concept to Halifax and surrounding communities.”

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With hundreds of locations in development, Code Ninjas is the world’s largest and fastest-growing kids coding franchise, according to the release. Plumridge says the brand only broke into the Canadian market last year, and its location in Halifax is the eighth one in Canada. Code Ninjas is also expanding to the United Kingdom this year.

READ MORE: Teaching coding in Canadian schools — How do the provinces measure up? (2017)

“Everybody is really looking to find better ways to engage technology and not really be subject to technology as much as being in control of it,” says Plumridge.

“We’re offering those resources and the knowledge to help parents and kids take control of the technology around them in their life.”

Plumridge says more than teaching code and fostering creativity, it’s about preparing future generations for what he calls the “technological revolution.”

“Technology is in our face every single day. For young kids, the way they’re engaging technology isn’t always the most productive, so this does give them a different perspective,” he says.

“Should they pursue computer sciences, architecture, whatever it is, we want to be at the forefront of encouraging that at a young age.”

Code Ninjas, which is located at 998 Parkland Drive, will host a grand opening event on Feb. 1 with complimentary game-building sessions and STEM learning activities.

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