ISU Computer Science Outreach

Computational thinking is a critical thinking skill that, according to some, is a required skill for success in the 21st century. This article from Jeanette Wing of Carnegie Mellon University describes what computational thinking encompasses. For most students, exposure to computational thinking as a problem solving tool comes late, or not at all. Since Fall 2010, the ISU Computer Science Department has been making efforts to change this in Iowa K-12 schools with a series of events and workshops designed to help K-12 educators, parents and students learn about computational thinking. Click the links below to learn more about our programs.

K-12 Teacher Certification Classes

The Iowa curriculum includes modeling as a requirement for student learning. In this workshop, Dr. Les Miller from the ISU Computer Science Department and Rob Kleinow, IT/Science Consultant for the Heartland AEA, will help you learn how to use Scratch to model concepts in the classroom. Scratch is a programming language learning environment that allows beginners to create interactive content such as stories, games and art. This workshop will help you develop classroom curriculum modules in Scratch to help your students model, with computational thinking, any subject in the K-12 curricula. 

Family/Student Programming Nights

In this 1 hour interactive presentation, parents, teachers, and students work side by side to learn about computational thinking and how to use Scratch to model concepts learned in the K-12 classroom. CS faculty will come to your school or local public library, or groups can come to the ISU campus and attend a workshop in a campus computer lab. Contact us at allscience@iastate.edu to set up a family/student night.


Computational Thinking Workshops

Held in the Pearson Hall Computer Labs on campus, the CTC Workshops offer students a chance to get started with computational thinking projects. Parents and teachers can also participate!



Computational Thinking Competition

Students who have developed a computational thinking project can demo it at our annual Computational Thinking Competition. 


Computational Thinking and Modeling Using MIT Scratch

This is a downloadable zip file of handouts and tip sheets that we use for CTC workshops and family/student nights. Includes sample scratch programs!

K-12 Computational Thinking Faculty: Soma Chaudhuri, Wallapak Tavanapong, Yan-Bin Jia, Simanta Mitra & Lu Ruan

Questions? Contact us! 

Definition of Computational Thinking

Computational thinking means thinking like a computer scientist. To do that in this competition, you will need to solve the problem posed by your project in the context of a computational model.

Computational Model

Definition of a Computational Model (note that the use of a computer is not required.)

•    There must be an instruction set.
•    The Computational Model must be able to store data and have the ability to support abstraction.
•    The instruction set must be able to operate on the data.
•    The Computational Model must support input (a way to get data into the model) and output (results of the solution need to be visible to the judges).

Project Choice

The project choice depends on the interests of the students involved. The project could come from any school subject, but projects are probably easier to find in science or mathematics classes. The thing to look for in choosing a project for this competition is, does the project pose a problem (task) that needs to be solved?

Competition Rules and Judging Rubric

Each entry (individual or team) must have a project that requires a solution and the solution must be solved using computational thinking. Each student will present their project to a team of judges. Judges will rate the entries on:

•    Difficulty of the problem posed by the project
•    Cleverness of the solution to the problem
•    Appropriateness and cleverness of the computational model
•    Ability of the student(s) to explain how the project works

Entry Categories Include:

•    K - 3rd Grade
•    4th - 6th Grade
•    7th - 9th Grade
•    10th - 12th Grade

Prizes will be awarded and all participants will receive a 'Swag Bag.'


Find Out More About Scratch at http://www.scratch.mit.edu/