OSPRI Lab: CSbyUs (2019-2020)


Computer Science (CS) is a doorway to opportunities of the future, but severe shortages of CS teachers and student-centered curricula can hold back North Carolina students, particularly those from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields such as female-identifying students and students of color. To address this complex problem, CSbyUs is a collaborative vision that harnesses the power of local learning communities to transform K-12 CS education across North Carolina.

CSbyUs catalyzes a network of undergraduate mentors to tailor and teach CS curricula to the needs of middle school students across diverse North Carolina communities. The goal is for middle schoolers to increase their enthusiasm for and knowledge of CS and to sustain their interest in pursuing related fields.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project aims to create open source curricula for middle school learners grounded in critical education theory, foster equitable identity development in learning environments and articulate a participatory and inclusive vision for CS education.

After engaging with the CSbyUs after-school program, students in grades 6-8 should be able to demonstrate competency in the fundamental CS technical skills for middle school students outlined in the K-12 CS Framework; gain exposure to diverse technology-based career pathways that suit their interests and facilitate sustained agency in their communities; and continue their education with increased CS self-efficacy, thinking that “CS is for me.”

Through teaching their community-specific CSbyUs curriculum, undergraduate mentors will broaden their conceptions of CS as a tool for catalyzing their communities and become competent in teaching CS in a K-12 setting. All student team members will gain experience in prototyping and modeling a new way to teach and learn that is founded on open source principles and methodologies.

Anticipated Outputs

Publications in open access journals; App Lab curriculum for version 2.0; additional curriculum; web development for CSbyUs website; student presentation of research at two conferences; open source tools for sharing CSbyUs curricula and enabling collaboration among CSbyUs communities; data collection for further research; two grant applications

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will include 12 undergraduates and 2 graduate students from both CS and non-CS backgrounds.

Students from Program II majors related to education and/or technology and society, Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Public Policy, Education, Psychology and Information Science + Studies are especially encouraged to apply, along with students who have been involved with the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Center for Documentary Studies.

We are also recruiting a project manager who will help organize the team's multi-faceted logistics and workflow.

Specialized skills and perspectives that would strengthen the team include equity-based education; teaching in K-12 settings; curriculum design; content knowledge in CS and computational thinking; communications, marketing and graphic design; web development; design thinking, human-centered design and agile methodologies; storytelling and data visualization; survey design; and focus group facilitation.

Selected students may have the opportunity to travel to present research at a conference related to CS, computational thinking and equity in education.

There is an optional Summer 2019 component. Research assistants will conduct a literature review pertaining to self-efficacy and diversity in CS and computational thinking as well as best practices in near-peer mentorship, for approximately 6 weeks at 20 hours per week.

The team will meet once a week together, and at least once a week in the following subteams:

  • Teaching: Teach CSbyUs curriculum in public middle schools and after-school programs.
  • Curriculum Research and Development: Research and develop new curricula for CSbyUs centered on design and computational thinking.
  • Technology Research and Development: Develop open source tools for sharing CSbyUs curricula and enabling collaboration among CSbyUs communities.

Each subteam will have a leader and point of contact but, in the spirit of collaborative inquiry, responsibilities for facilitating weekly subteam meetings will shift according to agile practices.

Students will have opportunities to gain competencies in designing student-centered curricula; teaching in K-12 contexts; conducting research with subjects; creating open education resources across media; employing design thinking and iterative methodologies; understanding student-focused learning theories (such as connected learning, personalized learning, and competency-based pacing); designing surveys and conducting focus groups; educating conference audiences about innovative curricular models and education technology; and contributing to open access publications.


Summer 2019 – Spring 2020

  • Summer 2019 (Optional): Conduct literature review pertaining to self-efficacy and diversity in computer science and computational thinking as well as best practices in near-peer mentorship; use literature review to develop content ideas for next CSbyUs curriculum
  • Fall 2019: Teaching subteam: Teach CSbyUs curricula at public middle schools and after-school programs; Technology subteam: build tools for sharing CSbyUs curriculum and continue improving CSbyUs website; Curriculum subteam: research and develop another new curriculum
  • Spring 2020: Continue work from fall semester; apply to present at conferences; apply for grant funding; submit articles for publication in open access journals; participate in pop-up CS and collaboration events in partnership with Red Hat CO.LAB education team


Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding

See earlier related team, Open Source Pedagogy, Research + Innovation (OSPRI) Lab (2018-2019).



Image: CSbyUs launch event at Duke University, Fall 2018, courtesy of Duke Social Science Research Institute

CSbyUs launch event at Duke University, Fall 2018.

Team Leaders

  • Aria Chernik, Social Science Research Institute|Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Jan Riggsbee, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ann Bailey, Philosophy (AB), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Jarred Flowers
  • Faven Getahun, Political Science (AB)
  • Daniel Hwang
  • Amy Jiang, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Eun Kim, Computer Science (BS)
  • Vivian Kirby, Mechanical Engineering (BSE), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Jay Patel, Computer Science (BS)
  • Yeon Suh, Psychology (BS)
  • Carter Zenke, Program II (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Michael Greene II, Center for Instructional Technology

/zcommunity Team Members

  • CSbyUs
  • Girls Club of Durham
  • Salvation Army Boys
  • Citizen Schools
  • Student U