The origin of Coiled, part 1.

By Peter

In 2002, I hatched a plan with a few colleagues to create a company that would do a mix of mainstream software and cool education projects for teens in low income neighborhoods. We had ideas for interesting projects, but we needed the kids and a place to teach. I called around, and eventually the head of community technology for the city of Seattle suggested I contact a man named Asfaha Lemlem, who was in charge of the computer lab at the Yesler Terrace community center. I met with Asfaha and explained what we wanted to do. He listened, and then simply said, “Let’s do it.”

For a year, we wrote grants together to get funding for the classes, and got nothing but rejection. But one day, the Gates Foundation contacted Asfaha and said that they liked what we had proposed. In the end, they funded us to teach a 3D modeling class that used University of Washington’s Augmented Reality technology. Soon afterwards, more funding followed. You can see videos of some of the projects that we did at

The kids were mostly from East Africa: Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea. It was the first time I had worked with immigrant kids, and my first class, I was unbelievably nervous. But they were great. They were friendly and smart, and they loved technology. As I got to know them, I got to see how they saw themselves as American, African, and African American, all at the same time.