IIT Kanpur B.Tech. in Computer Science
I grew up in a lower-middle-class family in Nepal destined to inherit our small family business. I was very fortunate to have access to a computer when I was in middle school. It was back in the mid-1980s in the rural town of Pilani (India) where I went to boarding school. Our school had just received two Tandy 1000 series computers from an alumni donor. Since we had no Computer Science teacher, our Vice-Principal decided to learn the subject, and I was fortunate to join his pilot lessons. Those were the days of learning PC DOS, WordStar, and BASIC, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity. It changed my life.
For my Junior and Senior years of high school, I went to a school in New Delhi with a Computer Lab equipped with 6 IBM-PC XT and AT computers. One day, our school organized a visit to HCL-HP, a software company, where I learned for the first time what a career in Computer Science means. That special visit was formative in my decision to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. It opened up opportunities that I had never dreamed of, bringing me to America as an immigrant worker and ending up at Google, where I had the privilege of working alongside some of the brightest minds.
The summer of 2020 brought a unique experience in our lives. Instead of the usual ‘normal life,’ we stayed home, and school and activities shifted online and indoors due to the global pandemic. My son, a rising junior in high school, had his summer internship plans canceled and wondered what to do. At that moment, I realized that he had not taken a single lesson in computer programming, even with access to more computing devices at home than my entire school had shared in the 1990s.
I asked my son to take an online course in Computer Science on one of the many MOOC platforms, but he hesitated. He thought it was too late to get started, and that discouraged him. Some of his classmates had been programming for many years. He also thought it was hard, so he was looking for excuses, such as — “I’m not as interested in Computer Science.”
So we dove in together. Within a couple of weeks of mentoring, my son wrote fluent Python as we invented a summer project for him that appealed to his maker instincts. Over the next six months, he learned Java, HTML, and CSS and planned to productize the summer project into a valuable product that he can sell, feeding his inner entrepreneur.
I wondered why my son and many of his classmates had not learned computer programming at school yet. As I researched the state of Computer Science education in the US, the statistics revealed a troubling reality. There simply aren’t enough educators teaching Computer Science — a subject as fundamental as math and science in enabling socioeconomic mobility across all industries. The gap is highest for students of color, girls, and other disadvantaged students, throughout America.
This experience planted the seeds in my head of building the most inclusive and accessible school in the world to teach high-quality Computer Science courses — one that combines the scalability of MOOCs with the efficacy of teacher-led classes.
Join us on this quest to make high-quality, advanced computer science education accessible to every student in the world.