Novel Program Teaches Computer Science Alongside Art, Biology

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It’s Computer Science Education Week 2017, and what better way to celebrate than by drawing attention to a program that comes at the subject matter from an entirely new direction.

Lila Finch, a PhD student in my lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, has designed a set of learning experiences that teach computer science alongside art and biology.

Lila Finch teaches a Luminous Science class.NICK SUTCLIFFE, ATLAS INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER

These activities, collectively called Luminous Science, guide middle and high school students through the process of designing and building dynamic sculptures that visualize biochemical processes from live data streamed from sensors in a nearby hydroponic classroom garden.

Finch began her work by building her own hydroponic garden and a nine-foot illuminated tree sculpture, where beautiful art meets practical function. In her curriculum, students build and paint wire and paper sculptures of their own design and illuminate them from within using strings of LED lights connected to tiny microbit microcontrollers. They wirelessly link these microcontrollers to data streams from nearby gardens and program LEDs to artfully reflect the biochemistry of plants in the garden.

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