Code Wiz is the sort of place that would make that TV braniac young Sheldon Cooper happier than visiting a train store.
But children don’t need to be young geniuses to enjoy learning computer coding and robotics at the learning center at 530 Florida 13, Unit 15, in Fruit Cove.
Owners Eliud and Rebeca Rodriguez both worked for Johnson & Johnson when they moved to Jacksonville from Puerto Rico in 2015.
He is an engineering manager. She had been in the finance division, then customer service, before the couple decided to buy a Code Wiz franchise.
They opened in July.
Code Wiz began in Westford, Massachusetts, in 2017. It teaches children ages 7 to 17 how to write computer code and apply it to robotics and computers.
Rebeca Rodriguez joked that a round of rock-paper-scissors may have determined which spouse could leave Johnson & Johnson and operate Code Wiz.
“I don’t remember if I won or lost, but I am the one who gets to wear the neat hoodie,” she said.
Neither are experts in robotics or writing code. They knew they wanted their own business, and a franchise consultant suggested Code Wiz as an option.
It is new to the market, and their location is not only close to their home but in a favorable demographic for young families as well.
“We wanted to do something could do as a family. Our 11-year-old is very much into this world. A Christmas ago he asked Santa Claus for a 3D printer,” Rebeca Rodriguez said.
While researching the business, she learned of a franchise in Massachusetts that was working with a Girl Scouts troop. She had been a Girl Scout and saw the potential for the business to teach math and computer science to girls as well as boys.
Her accounting background may help as she learns coding on the fly, she said. She said she is close to being an Excel spreadsheet expert.
“When I was in customer service, I learned to create a lot of macros in Excel to facilitate our order entry process,” she said.
They employ four “coaches.” Two are in high school and taught themselves coding and robotics. The others are University of North Florida students who have studied coding.
Rodriguez finds that learning computer coding is a cross between mathematics and language.
“It’s a little bit of both, but more like learning a foreign language. You have to learn the grammar rules and punctuation rules. In coding, you have to be very specific in the way that you write things so that the computer can clearly understand what you are telling it to do.”
The Code Wiz franchise fee is $40,000. The Rodriguezes took out a Small Business Administration loan of $200,000 that they have not fully spent.
The couple signed the franchise contract in January 2022. It took them until April to find a location. In addition to being convenient for their commute, the strip center seemed to offer the needed clientele.
“I think it is pretty interesting for us to have a karate school next door and a music school next door as well. So it seemed like it was a very fitting place for us to add to their portfolio,” she said.
Much of the learning is based on Minecraft video game software. Children first learn to code so they can create Lego robots to perform specific tasks.
“We’re very project-based. So it’s more of a Montessori style of learning. While we are taking them through the curriculum, we try to find what’s their passion and what would be a project that they would be interested in doing,” she said.
Code Wiz is open 4-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. In January they will open Mondays.
Parents pay a monthly tuition of $149. If a family enrolls more than one child, the first is billed at full price and there is a 10% discount for each additional child.
There are also summer camps and minicamps during extended school breaks. For example, winter camp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23 cost $96 per child a day.
Regular sessions last about an hour. Code Wiz tries to be flexible so that children can combine Code Wiz with sports, dance, music lessons or any other after-school activity.
Code Wiz is a way to stimulate a curious mind, Rodriguez said.
“Instead of a child watching YouTube videos of other people playing games, we can teach them how to make their own games here.”