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NCSSM included in NSF grant for computational science education

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, in collaboration with Horizon Research, Inc., of Chapel Hill, will share in a $1.25 million National Science Foundation award. The grant will fund a three-year project on computational science education. As a key collaborator, NCSSM will receive a portion of the grant funds.

NCSSM will work in partnership with Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI), an educational research group, on the project, titled, “Principles and Resources for Educators to Infuse Computational Thinking in the Sciences” (PREDICTS). The project seeks to generate knowledge about how to create instructional experiences for high school students that engage them in computational thinking (CT), what teachers need to know and be able to do to teach CT, and how classroom activities might be assessed.

“During this three-year project, we’ll be leveraging the course development in the computational sciences at NCSSM to study the integration and assessment of “computational thinking” in high school chemistry and biology classes,” says Bob Gotwals, instructor of chemistry and computational science at NCSSM, and co-principal investigator for the project. “NCSSM students and faculty will be involved in various aspects of this project.”

The principal investigator (PI) for the grant, Dr. Dan Heck, is a nationally known educational researcher, and Horizon Research has been involved in school-based curriculum development and assessment since 1987. HRI has provided services for a variety of clients in both the public and private sector, including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, numerous colleges and universities, and professional organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The materials developed for this grant to test the integration of computational thinking into the classroom will be based on materials developed for the courses in computational science, including courses in computational chemistry, computational biology, scientific programming, and computational medicinal chemistry. The central focus will be on high school chemistry and biology classrooms.  

John Morrison, instructor of computer science, will serve as a member of the PREDICTS expert consulting group, along with researchers and educators from universities and high schools.

This grant is under the category of “Exploratory Research,” a pre-cursor to the development of a larger proposal, if this work yields viable results. Three phases, Development, Pilot testing, and Field Trials, will involve high schools across the United States.