Wilensky, Horn Receive $2.5 Million National Science Foundation Grant

Wilensky, Horn Receive $2.5 Million National Science Foundation Grant

Wilensky, Horn

Learning scientists and computer scientists Uri Wilensky (far left) and Michael Horn at Northwestern University have received a three-year, 2.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study how to effectively incorporate computational thinking into high school STEM courses.

The nature of modern science and engineering has dramatically changed in recent decades and now heavily depends on computational methods and big data. But most high school science and mathematics classrooms have not kept pace.

To help fill the gap, Wilensky and Horn, both professors at Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy, will use a multidisciplinary approach to help teachers and students learn how computer science can be used as a powerful tool in math and science education.

Integrating computation into STEM courses could take many forms, including having students use agent-based modeling to simulate the interactions of predator and prey in an ecosystem or introducing data mining to find the genes correlated with a genetic disease or to find planets in space.

In addition to working in the classroom, students will tackle Capstone challenge activities with professionals in the industry, which they will present at the end of the year in a state-wide showcase.

"The skills and literacy necessary to do computer modeling are an increasingly important part of science and math and many other disciplines," Wilensky said. "We want to foster this literacy and make it part of the classroom." 

Horn is director of the Tangible Interaction Design and Learning Lab (TIDAL),  a team of designers, artists, learning scientists and computer scientists at Northwestern. 

Wilensky directs the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling and is a co-founder of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO). He is the author of the NetLogo agent-based modeling software which his lab actively maintains and improves.

The award is part of the NSF's $25 mililon Computer Science For All Initiative, which works to build the evidence base for computer science education. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 11/1/16