A milestone was met Saturday, Sept. 16 at Wellington’s Code Ninjas location — a ceremony was held for newly minted Black Belt Jayden Hendricks. The ceremony involved a wrist band, moving his name tag up the totem pole, presenting his video game, hitting a gong and snacks.
Franchise owner Rick Engelbart, who also owns the Code Ninjas franchises in Boca Raton and Coral Springs, has been working with Hendricks for years.
“This was the first center I opened, and one of our first ninjas, and I saw a lot of the struggles, and I saw him overcome,” Engelbart said. “This is what it’s about. I hadn’t been able to experience this yet before, and I’m really happy.”
Hendricks’ grandfather, Chris Thatcher, shared that at one point, Hendricks questioned whether he wanted to continue learning to do computer coding.
“He came back to it with a renewed sense of purpose,” Thatcher said.
And now, Hendricks has reached the Code Ninjas level of Black Belt.
Black Belt level includes a capstone project where students build their own three-dimensional video game that meets a set of requirements. They learn the skills needed to build their games through the nine-belt, self-paced curriculum after school and on weekends.
Within the different levels, they learn the fundamentals of computer programming through programming robots and building video games.
Hendricks made his game, Christmas Clicker, a clicker game, where Santa is out of commission because he ate too many cookies.
The game was fun to program, Hendricks said, because he was able to do whatever he thought was funniest at the time. Anyone can play Christmas Clicker by visiting https://jaydenrocks101.itch.io/christmas-clicker.
“He has been working on this since we opened in January 2019,” Engelbart said, “and he persevered.”
Hendricks, 15, attended classes at Code Ninjas when it opened in 2019, as well as online during the pandemic, and has continued his coding education, which started when he was seven years old.
Hendricks has thrived in coding, said his grandparents, Chris and Danielle Thatcher.
One thing that stood out about the Black Belt project, his grandfather added, was that it teaches the students the process of building software in real life, from the design document and testing, to the alpha release, revisions, beta release, more revisions, and eventually, the final project. “They do things the same way a developer would in the real world,” he said.
Other Black Belt student games can be found at https://forms.codeninjas.com/blackbeltninjas.
For more information about the Code Ninjas program, visit www.codeninjas.com/fl-wellington.