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Computing Across Disciplines

I'm teaching two courses this term that have me thinking a lot about the ubiquity of computing across disciplines, and about the ever increasing need for young people to understand about computing. Even if they themselves will not be involved in computing, it is increasingly likely that they will be working in a field that requires computing. They may have to talk intelligently with implementers, be comfortable pushing computational tools, be skilled at interpreting results.

One course is a research seminar on disasters and technology. Each student has to choose a topic that explores either a disaster caused by technology, an almost-disaster mitigated by technology, a technology used in disaster recovery, or the way in which technological advances inform policy and planning for disasters. We are defining "technology" rather broadly in the course, so the engineering of the Mississippi levee system counts in our context. But many of the students are looking at more modern developments, such as search and rescue robots, cellphone communication system recovery after earthquakes, use of social networking in disaster recovery, and use of social media for notification. I have, of course, been looking for nifty uses of technology. An area that is very interesting is the use of computer modeling for wildfire prediction and interdiction. If you want to take a look at this, and maybe interest your students in this application area, check out the many research projects of the Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program:

http://www.firelab.org/research-projects

In my next post I'll share some of the interesting applications I've found for my Taming Big Data course, an introductory CS course that focuses on how we handle large amounts of data.

Valerie Barr
CSTA Computational Thinking Task Force Chair

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