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A young person in Halifax has become the second Canadian to earn his black belt — in computer coding.
Noam Pischanker, 12, has long loved video games, and two years ago he enrolled in the Halifax branch of Code Ninjas. The company teaches children to code and borrows martial arts’ belt system to mark progress.
Pischanker spent the last six months creating and building a game called Maze Farmer to earn his black belt, just the 13th the company had awarded to thousands of students at its 500 locations worldwide.
“So you are this robot, Jamo, on a planet in space, and you’re trying to farm stuff here because you found seeds and stuff like that. You’re trying to farm for the earth,” he said, guiding his astro-bot through a series of mazes.
“Basically, the computer has a bunch of algorithms that it’s able to run, so coding is just activating those and telling it when to do that, how to do that and stuff like that. Commanding the computer,” he said.
He uses two screens: one shows the game, and the other the coding behind the game, as well as an overview of the planet that is unavailable to players.
Rachel Wang operates Halifax’s Code Ninjas. It opened in January 2020 and has about 180 students. Code Ninjas was founded in the U.S. in 2016.
Wang said Pischanker stands out.
“He’s actually one of the fastest ones who finished black belt. When he first came in, he could barely type, and right now he can type faster than his dad,” she said.
“He started from fundamentals, he started from block programming, following instructions, putting the blocks together. He never skipped any single game. He finished the whole belt, from white belt to black belt, in two years,” she said.
It typically takes three to four years, she said.
The students are taught by “senseis,” who are mostly computer-science students from local universities.
“Noam, he can actually design an app for a company right now. And as they go, if they want to learn website design, almost anything in technology, we can have them dive into it,” Wang said.
Pischanker sees a future in coding.
“I want to work something in technology-wise. It may be robotics or software development,” he said.