January 22nd, 2019 12:46 PM
Earning their belts: Students at Code Ninjas work on computer coding assignments to earn colored belts like in various martial arts. A new Code Ninjas will open this spring at 7119 North Ave. | Photo provided by Code Ninjas
A new business is opening in Oak Park this year that will allow students to earn a black belt, but not in karate or taekwondo – instead, they'll be getting their training in writing computer programs.
Code Ninjas, a national chain of programming classes for kids age 7 to 14, provides coding instruction for drones, robotics, JAVA-based programs and systems that work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), according to owner Melissa Potempa.
The classroom will be located at 7119 North Ave. and is expected to open in the late spring, Potempa said.
"The theme behind Code Ninjas is training kids for jobs that don't exist yet," she said. "Computers and technology are where the job market is going; all the schools are incorporating it, so we're getting them comfortable with the technology aspect of what their jobs will entail in the future."
There are six Code Ninjas locations currently in the Chicago area, but nearly 30 more are set to open soon, according to the company's website. Potempa said that in addition to the Oak Park location, she's opening Code Ninjas "dojos" – a name usually reserved for martial arts training facilities – in Orland Hills, Homer Glen, New Lenox and Frankfort.
She said the karate theme allows students to earn ranks, from white belts to black belts, as they work their way through the curriculum. Each level takes about 13 weeks on average, according to Potempa.
The curriculum is always changing as more coding classes are introduced through Code Ninjas' home office, she said, noting that artificial intelligence and 3D-printing classes are among the newest.
Instead of tutors, classes are taught by a "sensei" – a title typically used for some martial arts instructors – according to Potempa.
"All the different dojos fluctuate in size; mine are going to be able to hold 50 to 60 [students] at a time," she said.
The sessions run about an hour and the classes are open at any time, so parents can drop kids off on their own schedules.
"[Students] log into a computer and they go as fast as they can for about an hour, and they can come in twice a week," she said.
In addition to the open classes, Code Ninjas plans to have summer and holiday camps when kids are out of school, Potempa said.
The student to sensei ratio is expected to be about 10-to-1, she said.
She added that the hours of operation have yet to be set, but she expects the classes to open on weekdays around 2:30 to 3 p.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Saturday classes are expected to run from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Potempa said she chose the location at the corner of Harlem Avenue and West North Avenue because of its proximity to River Forest, Galewood and Maywood.