Students build tech skills at Durham's Code Wiz. Credit: Teresa Hartsfield

Like many parents, Teresa Hartsfield has spent the past few years grappling with the age-old (well, Y2K-old) question: How much screen time is too much?

“It’s so frustrating, as a parent, to strike that healthy balance,” says Hartsfield, who lives in Durham and has two young sons. “I don’t want them to just be playing [online games], so I’m constantly kicking them outside and telling them to do other things—but at the same time, I know the importance of having this type of exposure to technology. I know it’s going to be a part of their everyday lives, as they grow older, because it’s becoming more prominent in every industry.”

So when Hartsfield, a franchise consultant with a background in entrepreneurship, learned about Code Wiz—a growing franchise that offers curricula in coding and robotics for elementary through high school students—she knew she wanted to launch a location in Durham.

While two out of three STEM jobs are in computer science, coding is rarely taught to K-12 students, Hartsfield says. At the Durham branch of Code Wiz, which began classes this week, students aged 7 to 17 can develop a healthy relationship with technology while learning skills that will strengthen their future college and job applications.

To the delight of enrollees, part of the Code Wiz curriculum involves familiar online games like Roblox and Minecraft.

“In Roblox, there’s a toolkit where the kids can automatically drag and drop things into their worlds,” Hartsfield says. “At Code Wiz, we have a different approach, where we’re asking them to create all those things from scratch. We’re basically taking their playtime and making it into productive learning and creative time.”

For kids who prefer technology over social hobbies like sports, Code Wiz can also provide a valuable social outlet. 

“There’s all of these [memes] about gamers being in a dark room, and then they come out, and it’s like, ‘Where have you been?’” Hartsfield says. “You know, they lose days. Whereas at Code Wiz, they’re building critical thinking, team building, and social skills.”

Code Wiz is offered as a monthly subscription, with coding courses priced at $195 and robotics courses available for an additional fee. In the future, Hartsfield hopes to offer scholarships for low-income students; for now, the subscription is being offered at a 31.4159 percent discount. 

Code Wiz, located at 7001 Fayetteville Road in South Durham, will host an open house on Saturday, January 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Support independent local journalismJoin the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Staff Writer Lena Geller on Twitter or send an email to Comment on this story at