Code Ninjas launches in Reno to teach STEM skills to local youth

Christine Miller, left, and Eric Miller opened a Code Ninjas franchise after seeing the positive impacts coding and STEM education had on their own children.

Christine Miller, left, and Eric Miller opened a Code Ninjas franchise after seeing the positive impacts coding and STEM education had on their own children. Photo by Kaleb Roedel.

It seems fitting that when I walk into Code Ninjas, a learning center that teaches children how to code and build video games through STEM education, one of the first things I see is a robot vacuum shuffling across the floor.

“That’s employee No. 1,” Eric Miller, co-owner of the Code Ninjas in Reno, says with a laugh.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and Miller and his wife, Christine, are less than a week removed from opening their local franchise, tucked in a 2,600-square-foot space at the Sierra Meadows Plaza retail center at 7111. S. Virginia St. in Reno.

“We already have about five kids signed up right now,” Christine Miller says. “And I’ve got over a hundred leads — a lot of people I have to call back.”

The Millers were inspired to bring a coding center for children to the Biggest Little City because they saw firsthand the surging interest their own children had in STEM education — and video games.

Christine Miller, in fact, was the coach of her daughter’s robotics teams at St. Albert the Great Catholic School in Reno. After three years of coaching robotics teams, which won several local and regional awards, she not only saw the enthusiasm youth had for coding and robotics, but she, too, gained a passion for teaching them STEM education.

“I was seeing the kind of impact that coding and robotics has on kids,” she said. “And we were looking for something like (Code Ninjas) in our area, but we didn’t have it. And we decided it was something we could bring to the community.”


As the name suggests, Code Ninjas is a karate-themed coding center with a video game-based curriculum consisting of nine belts, just like in martial arts. Children, or “Code Ninjas,” ages 7 to 14 work through the curriculum at their own pace with the help of “Code Senseis” as they advance from white to black belt.

Code Ninjas in Reno has two “dojos” where registered children work through a video game-based curriculum. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel / NNBW


Founded in 2016, Code Ninjas has hundreds of centers spread across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

At Code Ninjas in Reno, the Millers said they have hired one part-time employee and are actively looking to hire at least two more in the short-term. In all, they expect to create five part-time jobs.

“We envision hiring a bunch from TMCC and UNR’s computer science programs,” Eric Miller said.

Designed as an after-school learning center, Code Ninjas is open Monday-Friday from 3-7 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The Millers said youth in the coding programs get two 1-hour sessions each week.

“What we’re really teaching kids to do is think and be problem-solvers,” Christine Miller said. “It’s really about the mindset and the foundation that we’re building for kids, no matter what career they might end up having.”

In the process, children learn to build video games, robotics and drones as they program in JavaScript, Lua and C Sharp. By the time a child finishes the program, they will write and publish an app in an app store, according to the Millers.

“What I like about the curriculum, from someone who’s done programming before, is they’re really focused on teaching the kids how to actually program,” said Eric Miller, who is the CIO at Prospect Education in Reno. “There are hardly any programmers that just do one language. It really teaches the concepts, so when they leave here, yeah, they’ll know C Sharp, Lua and JavaScript, but they’ll have the concepts down where they can pick up another language really quick.

Designed as an after-school learning center, Code Ninjas is open Monday-Friday from 3-7 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel / NNBW


“And, of course, there’s always going to be a huge need for programmers in communities like Reno-Sparks, which is a growing tech hub. So, we’re here to help the community.”


Northern Nevada has seen a wave of technology and advanced manufacturing companies and tech startups plug into the region over the past five years.

Many of these tech companies, though, still must look outside the area for their programmers and developers, said Brian Mitchell, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology (OSIT).

“Workforce is the No. 1 issue facing high-tech companies today,” Mitchell said in an email to the NNBW. “There is a shortage of workers in Nevada (and across the U.S.) with these skills. If our state’s students do not gain the knowledge and skills of a STEM education, Nevada’s knowledge-industry companies will struggle to grow and Nevada as a state will struggle to diversify its economy and attract these types of businesses to relocate here, even with an attractive tax and incentive structure.

“Without a diversified economy, our state is very vulnerable to national recessions as is evidenced by having the highest unemployment rate during the pandemic and during the Great Recession.”

This, Mitchell said, is why it’s important that Nevada students are exposed to high-quality STEM education as early as elementary school, adding: “Waiting until high school or college is too late.”

STEM that takes place outside of a formal classroom setting — like Code Ninjas — is an important part of the ecosystem. Mitchell noted that OSIT encourages schools to form partnerships with high-quality informal STEM learning providers.

One new coding center isn’t enough, though. To bridge the gap and meet the growing workforce needs in Northern Nevada and beyond, there needs to be an increased awareness of “what STEM is, why it’s important, and the local opportunities for STEM careers,” Mitchell said.

Equity in program design and implementing “evidence-based strategies” for increasing participation of underrepresented groups is also a focus, he noted.

“Finally, we need more high-quality STEM education programs with knowledgeable educators and engaged business partners,” he said.

To that end, Mitchell said OSIT has established three regional STEM networks — southern, northwestern and rural Nevada — and is developing and funding strategies to address the needed outcomes.

“The pandemic only accelerated our momentum to a world where most high-paying jobs will require STEM skills,” Mitchell said, “like critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication in addition to the technical math, science, technology, and engineering knowledge.”


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