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Hadi Partovi

Colin Wood

For the last two decades, Hadi Partovi has been passionate about computer science and education, but he has seen a persistent problem: Many schools don’t offer computer science classes, and companies have a hard time finding enough talented students to work for them in this field. On top of that, girls and minority students don’t always have as many opportunities to try computer science as their peers.

Partovi decided to tackle the problem by creating online coding tutorials for students and working with a team to produce a short video about the importance of learning computer science. The video featured interviews with top computer scientists, athletes and musicians and went viral, drawing so much attention that the hobby project became his full-time job. He and his twin brother, Ali, co-founded the nonprofit Code.org in 2013, which has been making waves around the world in expanding access to computer science education.

In the last three years, nearly 264 million people in more than 180 countries have gone through tutorials created for the annual Hour of Code campaign, which is designed to show everyone from age 4 and up how they can have fun while learning to code. Even President Obama wrote a line of code with students during an Hour of Code in 2014.

“Three years ago, Code.org didn’t even have an office,” Partovi said. “The fact that we’ve reached that level of awareness around that campaign is a pretty big deal.”

More than 11 million students have accessed the online courses, and 35,000 teachers have learned how to lead K-12 computer science classes. On top of that, 32 states now allow computer science to count for high school math or science graduation requirements — up from 12 when the nonprofit started. And entire cities, states and countries have committed to incorporate computer science into K-12 curriculum.

Code.org has shown educators that students can learn computer science, and now educators are hungry for more. “We’re no longer trying to change the education system; we’re simply trying to keep up with the education system because it wants to change,” Partovi said. “That’s really a profound difference.” —Tanya Roscorla