CMU Computer Science Academy Releases New Curriculum

Free Coursework Suitable for After-School Programs, Summer Camps, Middle Schools

Monday, September 16, 2019 - by Byron Spice

Jacob Buckheit (Dietrich College), Austin Schick and Lisa Lo (both SCS) are part of the cohort of CMU students who have made CMU CS Academy possible.

Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Science Academy has released a new version of its free online curriculum for teaching high school computer programming that's tailored for use in after-school programs, summer camps or middle schools.

"The new curriculum, called CS0 (CS Zero), covers the same topics as our original curriculum, CS1, and serves as an introduction to programming," said Erin Cawley, program manager for CMU CS Academy. "But it requires less instructional time and, therefore, explores the subject in less depth. This makes CS0 suitable for more informal and occasional learning contexts."

Also, like CS1, the new CS0 curriculum is entirely free of charge — including student and teacher accounts, as well as teacher training.

CMU's top-ranked School of Computer Science (SCS) launched CS1 this past January. The curriculum, intended for students in ninth grade and above, is already used by more than 5,000 students and more than 300 schools nationwide. The coursework, which makes extensive use of computer graphics and animations, fills a gap between introductory computer science materials available for grades K-8 and the rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) courses that students usually take later in high school.

In addition to CS0, CMU CS Academy also is announcing additional coursework that will be available as a pilot in schools next fall. This coursework includes replacements for the programming chapters now taught in AP Computer Science Principles. The replacement chapters are geared to three levels — students who haven't completed CS1, students who have taken a half-year of CS1 and students who have completed an entire year of CS1. The CS Principles course targets students in 10th grade and above.

Also available as a pilot next fall is a new CS2 curriculum, which applies the lessons of CS1 to a wide variety of subjects, such as art, music, math and science. Cawley said teachers and administrators planning their course offerings for next school year are invited to contact CMU CS Academy for more details.

CMU CS Academy is co-directed by two celebrated computer science educators: David Kosbie, associate teaching professor; and Mark Stehlik, SCS assistant dean for outreach. A key part of the course development effort, however, has been shouldered by a group of about 30 undergraduate students majoring in computer science and related fields.

While the professors designed the course and wrote the interactive course notes, the student team devised many of the exercises for each chapter and provides important support for teachers and schools that use CMU CS Academy.

"We're here to support teachers so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability," Cawley said, noting that the study materials are designed for teachers to use in formal classrooms, not for independent study. "Our students have allowed us to provide a level of support to teachers that you typically don't get with other free curricula."

The CMU CS Academy is supported by SCS, and from gifts from both former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris and Seth Merrin, philanthropist and CEO of the institutional equities marketplace Liquidnet.

More information about CMU CS Academy, CS0 and the rest of the curricula is available on the project's web site.

For more information, Contact:
Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 | bspice@cs.cmu.eduVirginia Alvino Young | 412-268-8356 |