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 (MZF), who then worked with the Ministry of Education to select top public school students. MZF also expanded the vision to ensure that top public school students from not only Addis Ababa, but every region of Ethiopia, are selected to participate. Nowadays AddisCoder is jointly organized by AddisCoder Inc. and MZF. The former is responsible for assembling the teaching staff and designing the curriculum together with this staff, and the Meles Zenawi Foundation handles all other logistics (funding travel for some of the teaching staff and for the high school students, securing room and board for students and a venue for the program, working with the Ministry of Education to ensure top students are selected, etc.). Through this collaboration the program has expanded greatly since the first 2011 version, not only by having greater geographical, gender, and socioeconomic diversity amongst the students, but also including many more local Ethiopian university students and staff as teaching assistants, some of whom have gone on to develop their own spinoff programs in their local regions. The Meles Zenawi Foundation has additionally created its own new programs for younger high schoolers in other cities in Ethiopia, in preparation for AddisCoder.
The most recent edition of AddisCoder ran in Summer 2019 with over 170 high school students, and 17 Ethiopian students, staff, and tech industry workers as teaching assistants (in addition to a teaching staff of 4 lecturers and 20 foreign teaching assistants who flew in from all over the world). High school students were again brought from all over Ethiopia to participate in the course, held at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology campus. In each of the last three iterations of AddisCoder, 40-45% of the high schoolers have been girls. AddisCoder will be held for fifth time in Summer 2021, exact dates TBD.