Tackle Complexity

Computational & Systems Thinking, Sustainability

Tackle Complexity

Computational & Systems Thinking, Sustainability

Tackle Complexity

Computational & Systems Thinking, Sustainability

Tackle Complexity

Computational & Systems Thinking, Sustainability

Tackle Complexity

Computational & Systems Thinking, Sustainability

Tackle Complexity

Computational & Systems Thinking, Sustainability

Tackle Complexity

NYSCI is leading the field in developing playful, inviting pathways into understanding complex systems, including our environment, our cities, and our digital networks.

Girls First Digital Studio

The Girls First Digital Studio is a series of workshops where participants experience the process of computational design from conceptualization to prototyping, to production. The overarching goal of the program was to:

  1. Develop and test a computing and digital technology education program that could be used effectively with underserved female youth (ages 12-17).
  2. To expose girls to female professionals who work in STEM fields/digital media.

The Girls First program model is based on research demonstrating that the use of computing in personally meaningful ways can positively impact the computer science learning of young women, who are severely underrepresented in this field. 50 female middle school students from our local NYC community participated in the program and demonstrated:

  1. Increased interest in computer science; (2) enhanced 21st-century learning skills;
  2. Improved computational thinking and; (4) the ability to construct virtual spaces.

NYSCI also trained educators from partner organizations on how to deliver their own Girls First programs. As a result of the NYSCI training, each partner organization successfully implemented the program at multiple sites, which resulted in over 300 female youth having the opportunity to engage in computing and digital design by way of hands-on projects.

  • CONTACT: Anthony Negron
  • TEAM: Ray Ferrar
  • PARTNERS: CoderDojo, Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, Computer Resource Center (NYC Parks Department), Sports and Arts in School Foundation
  • FUNDERS: New York Community Trust HIVE
  • RELATED LINKS: Girls First Digital Studio

The Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP)

CUSP is a group of informal science educators, climate scientists, learning scientists and community partners in four Northeast US cities (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, and Washington, DC.), exploring innovative ways to educate city residents about climate change. CUSP provides learning opportunities that are local, relevant, and solutions-focused, connecting the interests of urban residents with climate impacts and solutions. CUSP works through multiple platforms including hands-on activity kits, outreach programs, and a digital map, to weave individual narratives with complex scientific data to create a personal view of climate change in the four CUSP cities.

    • CONTACT: Michaela Labriole
    • TEAM: Kate Donnelly
    • PARTNERS: CoderDojo, Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, Computer Resource Center (NYC Parks Department), Sports and Arts in School Foundation
    • FUNDERS: National Science Foundation, Franklin Institute

RELATED LINKS: The Value of Systems Thinking to Climate Change Education


The Estuarium will be a new structure built at the foot of Pier 26 on the Hudson in Lower Manhattan, whose mission is to engage a diverse audience in an exploration of the Hudson River Estuary and the significant scientific research it supports, and through interactive and hands-on tools, to create a physical and virtual space for experiencing, visualizing and personalizing the invisible dynamics of the living estuary. Along with Clarkson University and the Hudson River Park Trust, NYSCI is designing the interactive exhibits that will make the Estuarium a world-class center for the exchange of ideas and research on estuary science.

  • CONTACT: Steve Uzzo.
  • TEAM: Geralyn Abinader.
  • PARTNERS: Clarkson University, Hudson River Park Trust.
  • FUNDERS: Clarkson University, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Pack: Infusing Computational Thinking into Science Teaching

The Pack, developed by the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) and Design I/O, is an open world digital game featuring the fictional world of Algos, where healthy ecosystems have faltered and users gather resources to attract creatures with special skills. These creatures’ functions are combined into computational sequences to perform tasks to tackle problems, ultimately restoring balance to the world. NYSCI received a grant from the Education Innovation and Research Program of the U.S. Department of Education, and is working together with Participate and the American Institutes for Research to create a program that includes The Pack, supplemental computational thinking curriculum, professional development, and an online community of practice (CoP) for teachers. Partners will study the program’s effectiveness in increasing student engagement with computational thinking skills in 54 schools across New York City.

Connected Worlds: Interaction Logs

This innovative research study is exploring how we can support group learning by studying the interactions of visitors to Connected Worlds, NYSCI’s immersive, interactive exhibit about environmental sustainability. Participating in a simulation like Connected Worlds has the potential to help students understand the principles of complex systems, but because different principles surface depending on how each simulation unfolds, it can be difficult for teachers to adjust their lesson plans on the fly to highlight the principles that emerge in a given simulation run. To address this challenge, researchers are developing methods to create recaps—easily understandable summations of “what happened” during a visit to the exhibit—that can help learners and their teachers make better sense of simulations. Using logs from groups of students interacting with Connected Worlds, researchers discover how they can best use data traces left behind to identify when meaningful changes occur in the system and understand the key actions taken by visitors that caused these changes. These recaps, which will be automatically generated, can help students remember their experience and reveal important scientific principles. Teachers and other facilitators will be able to use these recaps, along with an accompanying discussion guide, to support productive learning conversations about the scientific principles incorporated in a simulation.

Connected Worlds: Tracking learning Workshop

This three-day workshop held in Spring 2015 included experts in museums, informal learning, complex systems, and data science, who collaborated with technologists to examine what types of technologies could help track how learners behave, and learn, in museums and other informal learning locations. The workshop included discussions of current research from fields including the learning sciences, educational performance assessment, and psychometrics, learning analytics, and cross-cultural and cross-setting sociocultural learning theory.


Transmission: Astonishing Tales of Human-Animal Diseases is an interactive comic book produced by the New York Hall of Science. An outing turns into a science adventure when three kids find a dead crow. After reports of more dead birds and an unknown illness hit the news, Metro City plans to cancel the Big Parade to control an outbreak. Can three kids identify the mysterious malady in time to save lives… AND the parade? Working with a zoo scientist and a mosquito hunter, the young detectives discover the disease and how to stop it from spreading.

Inspired by the 1999 West Nile Virus epidemic in NYC, Transmissions focuses on key scientific concepts: evolutionary biology and homology as a means to understanding how all animals, including humans, are related and share diseases. Aimed at middle school children, the narrative engages the reader in the scientific processes of collecting and understanding evidence, forming a hypothesis and using scientific tests to confirm their theories.

Leveraging the appeal of graphic novels Transmissions incorporate dynamic visuals, and engaging narrative and relatable characters. In addition to the narrative, the comic explores science through interactive features and scientific imagery.

Mobile City

NYSCI is working with students from the International High School for Health Sciences on Mobile City Science (MCS), which is based at the University of Washington. Participating students move through several activities that support them to collect, analyze, and argue from geospatial and digital data. This data will serve two primary functions:

  1. Data will inform “counter­maps” that young people produce and present to stakeholders. Youth counter­maps speak to “official,” government maps of the areas and offer a youth perspective on urban places that is often missing from processes of community development and resource allocation. As part of the MCS curriculum, participating young people will present their counter­maps to adult local stakeholders in design charrettes and will argue for changes to the community for increased learning opportunities.
  2. The data young people generate will inform the creation of place/learner­relevant curricula around learning assets and opportunities within the Corona community. Taking a city science approach, combined with a “situated” perspective on learning, MCS support NYSCI educational designers in considering the full range of social and ecological factors influencing a learner; as NYSCI educators analyze the neighborhood context, they are generating curricular ideas and learning opportunities for their youth that have spatial justice and equity at their core.

  • CONTACT: Andres Henriquez
  • TEAM: Anthony Negron.
  • PARTNERS: University of Washington, International High School for Health Sciences
  • FUNDERS: National Science Foundation


This engineering education research project seeks to create a new exhibit for potential use at NYSCI and to conduct research to understand how children can learn core computing concepts through group participation in a digital game. This project is exploring new ways to use data to identify and track distinctive patterns of gameplay. This project will contribute to a broader effort to create more diverse and appealing informal engineering activities, inviting students to learn more about engineering skills and concepts. This research is also contributing to the growing body of knowledge of relevant insight into the learning process, particularly in complex settings such as group interactions and informal, time-constrained interactions.

Big Data Literacy Hub

In April 2017, NYSCI held the Big Data Literacy Workshop, bringing 40 Big Data researchers, practitioners and educators together to begin the task of developing the essential concepts of Big Data Literacy. This work is part of NYSCI’s involvement in the Northeast Big Data Hub, a consortium of over 80 regional stakeholder institutions addressing challenges in Big Data applications in education, industry, and policy. NYSCI will continue to participate in the HUB as a representative on both the Steering Committee and in leading the Big Data Literacy effort.

Girl Scout Leadership Institute

Girl Scouts Leadership Institute-NYC (GSLI-NYC) is a 15-month leadership journey that ensures that girls in grades 9-12 gain leadership skills and have significant access to successful female role models so that today’s girls can become tomorrow’s leaders. Through a collaborative partnership with NYSCI, these young women will participate in a 3-week intensive program focused on problem identification, the design process, fundamental skills of coding with MIT App inventor, and basic marketing and financial principles. Once participants have collaborated on developing their apps and marketing plans, they present their projects to their families and to a panel of industry experts and entrepreneurs.

  • CONTACT: Anthony Negron
  • TEAM: Ray Ferrar
  • FUNDERS: Girl Scouts of America

In the News

NYSCI has received a federal grant from the Education Innovation and Research Program of the U.S. Department of Education to expand the use of The Pack as a program to increase middle school student engagement in computational thinking across New York City public schools.
The Art of the Brick, a captivating exhibition and the world’s largest display of LEGO® art, features more than 100 works of art by contemporary artist Nathan Sawaya.
Apple’s App Store has highlighted NYSCI’s The Pack as an “App of the Day,” saying that Algos, The Pack’s fictional world, “encourages children to learn and master the use of algorithms.”