Planning for the first edition of AddisCoder began in Spring 2011, when Prof. Jelani Nelson founded the program while finishing his Ph.D. in computer science at MIT. The course then ran from July 4th to July 29th later that year, being co-organized with Naol Duga and held at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology campus of Addis Ababa University. The facilities were provided by the Electrical Engineering department, under the then deanship of Dr.-Ing. Getahun Mekuria (now Ethiopia’s Minister of Science and Technology). Free advertising to spread the word about the course was generously provided by Afro FM, Sheger FM, and Yodit Beyene then at the Institute for International Education. Eighty-two students completed the course (click here for a sampling of some alumni). Imnet Worku, a software engineer in Addis Ababa, volunteered as a teaching assistant.
Though the program was a great experience for many students, a frustrating observation was that despite the program being completely free, the majority of students who enrolled were private school students. Prof. Nelson then decided to have a future iteration of the program with extra effort made to encourage public school students to participate. For the following 2016 iteration of the course, he collaborated with the Meles Zenawi Foundation, who then worked with the Ministry of Education to select top public school students to participate from not only Addis Ababa, but from across all nine regional states of Ethiopia plus Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. A nearly equal number of students attended the course from each of the eleven regions, with eighty-two students again participating in this second iteration. Prof. Nelson was responsible for assembling the teaching staff (which included Dr. Timnit Gebru and Prof. Boaz Barak and an additional 11 teaching assistants) and designing the curriculum together with this staff, and the Meles Zenawi Foundation handled all other logistics (arranging travel for some of the teaching staff and for the 82 students, securing room and board for students and a venue for the program, working with the Ministry of Education to ensure top students were selected, etc.). The program was housed at the Ethiopian Youth Sports Academy. The students indeed were of high quality: of the top three scorers nationally on the 2017 Ethiopian University Entrance Exam, two were AddisCoder 2016 alums! Notably, over 45% of participants in this second iteration were women.
The next edition of AddisCoder is currently being organized to take place in Summer 2018. The program will train over 200 high school students chosen from all across Ethiopia, as well as train a number of college students to run their own afterschool computer science programs even after the Summer has ended, to have lasting impact even when AddisCoder is not in session.