When parents see their child on the couch playing video games, they may be mortified. Kee Ma, however, sees potential.
In what he calls a “dojo,” children are welcomed to become trainees at Code Ninjas, a business he is opening in Floral Park this weekend. Under the training of a “code sensei,” children from ages 7 to 14 can learn coding methods for robotics and game design.
Entering the dojo with their children wearing digital bracelets resembling karate belt colors to scan them in for class, parents won’t have to worry about running late. Ma explained that each child is guaranteed an hour at Code Ninjas once scanned in.
Ma, an entrepreneur, is a first-generation immigrant. Having emigrated from Hong Kong in 1974, Ma’s parents did everything they could to make sure Ma got through college. After graduating from Binghamton University with a degree in economics, Ma stumbled into the “hustle and bustle” life of commuting to finance jobs in corporate America, he said.
“When you have kids, your whole perspective changes,” Ma said.
When Ma became a father, he decided it was time for a change. He wanted to do something positive not just for his children, but all of them. He noticed that children love video games whether parents like it or not. Ma saw this as a great chance for youngsters to do something more with the games: learn how to make them.
In the dojo, a little disclaimer of a cartoon ninja on the wall says, “Sorry parents, Ninjas and Code Senseis only.” When children are in the playroom, they will be encouraged to be self-reliant. They should know their own user names and passwords and are only guided by a “Code Sensei” to get through a technological jam. Ma said, however, that there will be a parent portal online to track the child’s progress.
Code Ninjas is part of a corporation based in Houston that started in 2016. A Code Ninjas dojo has been open in Syosset for almost a year. More locations will be opening in Commack, Roslyn and Long Island City.
The Floral Park location at 246 Jericho Turnpike will open Saturday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony where Ma said the village Board of Trustees will be present.
“Instead of playing a video game, they build it.” Ma said. While Ma knows not all his code ninjas will be programmers when they grow up, he said they will learn a vital skill to eventually compete in today’s market.