Engineers Week 2021 begins on Monday, Feb. 22 and arguably one of the most important celebrations of the week is Girl Day on Feb. 25. As STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education remains an important focus in K-12 curriculum, the simple facts remain that the United States still falls short of educating an adequate workforce for the number of jobs needed and the gender gap continues to increase.
Los Alamitos-based Code Ninjas franchise owner Swathi Bhamidipati is working to change all that one coder at a time.
“We have a STEM shortfall and it is getting worse,” Bahmidipati said. “Approximately 67% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, yet only 47% of high schools teach computer science, and only 11% of STEM bachelor’s degrees are in computer science.”
Bhamidipati is an electrical engineer herself and found that by opening a Code Ninjas location she can make an impact appropriately training a 21st century workforce.
“Coding is foundational to technology and engineering and it is imperative that we expose children to this skill at a young age, regardless of gender or ethnicity,” she said. Code Ninjas is open to children as young as five. According to www.Code.org, women who took an AP computer science class in high school are ten times more likely to major in it, while Black and Latinx students are seven times more likely. But even then, she argues, it might be too late.
“Coding jobs are well-paying, typically a computer science major will earn 40% above college graduates in other majors, and if we leave girls behind the pay gap will also increase. Studies by Code.org show that girls do as well as boys in computer science and enjoy it as much, but they are less confident about it. This leads me to believe that computer science needs to be introduced at a much earlier age to girls. Hoping that a girl will suddenly be interested in it in high school—if it is even offered—is not enough,” Bhamidipati said.
To attract more young girls into the dojo, the Code Ninjas Los Alamitos-Cypress location is offering a free coding session to girls who sign-up to visit their center between February 25 (Engineers Week Girl Day) and March 8 (International Women’s Day). And, if they sign-up for two months of weekly sessions, the third month will be free.
Code Ninjas was founded in 2016 and is designed to mirror advancement as if learning martial arts in a dojo. The children move through nine levels starting with a white belt and progress through more challenging levels, ultimately reaching black belt. Instead of belts, these coding ninjas are identified by their colored wristbands and the satisfaction of attaining new skills. Keep the kicking and chopping at home, though, because all of the coding is taught around building video games.
“Children need to be engaged and need to have fun while they are learning. Our curriculum teaches how to code in a fun environment developing apps and video games that they want to use or play,” she explained. “They are learning through playing on the computer, essentially.”
Not only are they learning coding language, through the exercises they learn problem-solving skills, teamwork, and building self-confidence, just like a ninja! The curriculum is self-paced, but not self-taught. Ninjas in training receive immediate help and encouragement from “Code Senseis” (sensei is Japanese for teacher) and fellow students as they progress and each level advancement warrants a celebration.
Code Ninjas offers a variety of opportunities for children to get involved, including a flexible weeknight drop-in program, spring break and summer camps, and Parents Night Out events on weekends.
To sign-up, call the Los Alamitos-Cypress Code Ninjas location at (562) 249-6242 or visit https://www.codeninjas.com/locations/ca-los-alamitos-cypress.
Code Ninjas (located upstairs at 4290 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos) serves the Los Alamitos-Cypress area, including Long Beach, Seal Beach, Garden Grove, and surrounding cities. The location is owned and operated by Swathi Bhamidipati and her husband Vikram Vaidyanathan. The couple brings collective experiences and strengths to the business. Vaidyanathan, originally from India, has been in the IT industry for 18 years. He received his MBA from the University of Massachusetts and has a Master’s in Engineering from University of Cincinnati. Bhamidipati grew up in New Zealand and moved to California after graduating from Auckland University of Technology.
For more information, visit codeninjas.com.